Ergonomics Definition - How does it affect health and work performance?

What is ergonomics and how does it affect health and work performance?

Ergonomics is the set of scientific knowledge aimed at improving work, and its systems, products and environments so that they adapt to the physical and mental capacities and limitations of the person, according to the International Ergonomics Association. In addition, the objective of this discipline is to adapt the work to the main needs of the employee and facilitate the analysis of working conditions, as well as the possible injuries that postures, movements and forces can cause, as pointed out by the Spanish Ergonomics Association (AEE).

This organization maintains that this discipline is based on identifying, analyzing and reducing occupational risks, or adapting the job to the person who uses it, but also contributing to the evolution in work situations, introducing new technologies in this field and increasing motivation at work. In addition, it makes a distinction between the different areas of this discipline that exist: systems ergonomics, dedicated to work; correction ergonomics, dedicated to ending bad habits; geometric, temporal, environmental and dedicated to new software and hardware platforms.

When it comes to a job within the office, José Santos, general secretary of the Professional College of Physiotherapists, admits that: "You have to adapt the material of the chair and table to the worker and not the worker to the work area ." However, it is those people who are forced to handle weights that are the most likely to need ergonomic studies, as they suffer more injuries. Within this sector, 4.8 percent suffer from pathologies overcome by a lack of ergonomics in the workplace, according to the National Institute of Statistics (INE).

Possible injuries derived from a lack of ergonomics

According to the European Agency for Safety and Health at Work, between 60 and 90 percent of the population will suffer back pain at some point in their life as a result of their job. In addition, between 15 and 42 percent of those affected will suffer it regularly, according to this body.

At this point, Santos indicates that other frequent ailments are related to poor posture at work , such as contractures or deviations in the spine, along with stress and lack of exercise. The joints of the hip, spine and knees suffer in constant tension, especially in those people who spend their working day standing, they can lead to rheumatic problems ”, he adds. 


Recommendations to avoid injuries at work

Faced with these injuries, which have a great impact on the quality of life of workers, there are some tips that can prevent or alleviate the problems described, according to the general secretary of the College of Physiotherapists Professionals:

Adjust the worktable

The working height is extremely important, as it ensures that the employee performs his work in a well-balanced body position. This adaptation must be organized in an efficient way, with enough space to move around and change position from time to time, Santos says.

Avoid being in the same position for a long time

Being in the same position for long periods of time can lead to various musculoskeletal disorders . Santos suggests for those people who are on their feet during their workday to have a stool so that they can put one foot on it, and thus relax the lower back.

Dress in a comfortable way

It is necessary to wear loose clothing that does not constrict and allows you to be comfortable in order to prevent bad posture. It is vitally important to wear comfortable shoes, to reduce the risk of possible rheumatic injuries derived from excessive stress on the tendons of the legs.

Get a good night's rest

Sleeping eight hours a day favors recovery in an optimal way, but it also influences the appearance of injuries and to strengthen the immune system , so that the employee will be less prone to getting sick.

Lift weight in moderation

Governments usually determine the maximum weight that a worker can carry, however, Santos indicates that it is advisable to carry weight with a straight back and bending the knees to lift it off the ground.

Ergonomics benefits everyone

Investing in ergonomics at work benefits all parties involved , Santos emphasizes. In this way, workers avoid unnecessary risks to their health, but there is also an improvement in the work environment, which causes greater motivation. It also has advantages for the employer, because investing in ergonomics reduces absenteeism and improves the quality of service.

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