ERGONOMICS IN DESK WORK
1. What is Ergonomics?
2. Why is it important?
3. Ergonomic Factors.
4. Types of Ergonomics.
5. Ergonomic Principles.
7. Effects of Ergonomics.
8. Ergonomic Risk Factors.
9. How to Prevent.
10. Workstation Ergonomics.
Ergonomics is the science and art of fitting the job and the workplace to the workers’ needs.
It is the study of work. It is a way to make jobs/tasks fit the employees better.
It is a way to make work easier. Hence, Ergonomics is the science of human engineering, which involves
designing a workplace that fits a person physical dimensions, with the intend of preventing work-related
injuries and illnesses and increase comfort and productivity.
It is very evident that workers who required to maintain body position for long period of time developed
musculoskeletal problems, which clearly establishes the connection between certain job tasks and
Repetitive Stress Injury (RSD) and Musculoskelatal Disorders (MSD).
There are 2 categories of ergonomic factors:
– Auditory Effects such as permanent or temporary hearing loss is most common
occupational hazards affecting most of the miners and drillers.
– Acute effects such as eye Strains, eye pain, headache, lacrimation, congestion around
cornea and eye fatigue might occur due to Poor Illumination.
General Comfort and Health.
Repetitive Stress Injury (RSI)
TYPES OF ERGONOMICS:
According to International Ergonomics Association:
Physical ergonomics is concerned with the physical activity that we perform routinely, on a daily basis.
For instance: Stroking the keyboard repetitively by a computer engineer. Repetitive Strain Injury (RSI)
falls into this category.
Cognitive ergonomics which deals with the mental processes such as perception, memory, reasoning,
judgments, executive functions and problem solving when at work. Mental strain from workload falls
into this category.
Organizational ergonomics which deals with the organizational traditions, rules and norms in the work
environment, such as employees’ daily roster, shifts and schedules.
3 Main Ergonomic Principles:
1. Workers must adopt safe and comfortable postures.
2. Muscle forces must be provided by the largest, designated and most appropriate muscle groups
3. Work activities should be performed preferably with joints at their mid Range of Motion (ROM).
The main objectives of ergonomics are:
To achieve the best mutual adjustment of man and his work for the improvement of
human efficiency and well-being.
To improve the efficiency of operation by taking into account a typical persons’ size,
strength, speed, visual acuity and physiological stresses such as fatigue, speed of
decision making and demands on memory and perception.
To maximize productivity while lowering the risk of Musculoskeletal Disorders (MSD)
developed as a result of long term exposure to a combination of ergonomic risk factors
such as repetitions, high forces and awkward postures. Examples of MSDs include carpal
tunnel syndrome, tendonitis and back disorders.
EFFECTS OF ERGONOMICS:
Two classifications of ergonomic injuries:
Cumulative Trauma Disorder (CTD’s) – which is exposure driven
Strain/Sprain – which is instantaneous (event driven).
Cumulative Trauma Disorders (CTD’s):
– Injury to soft tissue caused by prolonged exposure to multiple ergonomic risk factors.
– Typically develop in small body segments (such as fingers, wrists, elbows and neck).
– Tendon Disorders: Tennis Elbow/Lateral epicondylitis.
– Nerve Disorders: Carpal Tunnel Syndrome.
– Neurovascular Disorders: Raynaud’s phenomenon.
– Injury to the connective tissue caused by single forceful event such as lifting heavy objects in
– Common to large body segment like: back, legs and shoulders.
– Risk of injury increases with the presence of multiple risk factors.
ERGONOMIC RISK FACTORS:
Risk of injury increases with:
– Presence of multiple risk factors with a single job task; such as: Static loading, repetition,
contact stress, awkward posture, force and vibration. Vibration of frequency of 10-500Hz is
encountered at work with pneumatic tools, drills and hammers, which affect hands and
arms. Fine blood vessels of the fingers become excessively sensitive to spasm, hence causing
injuries of hands, shoulders and elbows.
WHAT TO DO TO PREVENT?
– Warm up and stretch before activities that are repetitive, static or prolonged.
– Take frequent breaks from ANY sustained posture every 20-30 minutes.
– Respect pain-positions or stop painful activity.
– Recognize early signs of inflammatory process and treat early.
– Be aware of workstation environment.
HOW TO REDUCE MSD:
1. Maintain Neutral Posture:
– Maintain erect position of back and neck with shoulders relaxed.
– Position equipment and work directly in front of and close to your major tasks.
– Keep upper arms close to the body elbows 90-100 degrees.
– Keep feet flat on floor, upper body weight resting on “sits bones” (ischium).
– Wrists as neutral as possible; safe zone for wrist movement is 15 degrees in all
– Avoid bending neck forward for prolonged periods of time; use a copy holder if
– Avoid static positions for prolonged time, muscle fatigue – MOVE to circulation.
Taking the reference of computer personnel:
– The neck and back should be erect and must be perpendicular to the sit on which you are
– The space must be adequate for you to move your legs, there should not be any object
under your table that would obstruct you to stretch your legs.
– You should work at a well illuminated room where the passage of the light must be
adequate and which doesn’t cause you visual fatigue.
– Your elbow must be bent and your wrist must be flexed comfortably for free accessibility to
– Your knee and hip must be bent to near 90 degrees and feet must be in a neutral position
for free accessibility for you to move.
– Alternate activities frequently; rotate heavy and/or repetitive tasks with lighter less
– If stress becomes worse REASSESS task setup and look for alternative methods.
– Take frequent breaks to rest hands.
– Stretch your neck, arms and legs prior to and after every 30 minutes of your desk work.
– A successful ergonomics program utilizes the skills of many disciples, including engineering,
psychology, medical, safety, management and the employees or associate.
– Applications range from the design of work areas (including office furniture, automobile
interiors, and aircraft cockpits) to the disposition of switches and gauges on the control
panels of machinery to determining the size, shape and layout of keys on computer
terminals and character height, colour, and clarity on video displays.
– The benefits of applying ergonomic principles:
Maximize productivity, efficiency and quality.
Reduce MSD risk by eliminating or minimizing ergonomic risk factors.
Improve employee morale.
Cost savings associated with injury-related absenteeism, treatment and new hire training.
– It can help to do work safely.
– It can make you more comfortable.
– It can prevent injuries.
– Minimize ergonomic risk factors in your area.
– Stretch throughout the shift esp. before and after activities that require awkward positions
– Pay attention to your body and know your physical limitations.
– Report ergonomics issues through appropriate channels.
– Ergonomic injuries are preventable, and you own your own safely.
Author of this Article
Shristi Shakya MPT Masters in Physiotherapy (Neurological and Psychosomatic Disorders). copyright @medicospace.com