Five Ergonomic Risk Factors to Consider at Your Facility
May 27, 2019
- Ben Zavitz, CPE, Ergo Human Performance, LLC
By designing work based on “internal productivity” (i.e., not overburdening or fatiguing the employee, allowing them to produce more output with less effort), waterfront employers can optimize the efficiency and quality of their processes while minimizing the risk of costly workplace injuries to the back, shoulders, arms, and knees.
When reviewing a job with “ergonomic eyes”, we should ask ourselves, “Would I do perform the task this way?” By looking for ergonomic risk factors (known as conducting a risk assessment), we can identify ways to improve jobs and reduce risk of injury.
There are five main ergonomic risk factors to consider when evaluating a job.
- Awkward or static work postures such as bending, reaching or twisting with the neck, back, arms or legs. Awkward positions put the muscles and tendons at mechanical disadvantages, making them weaker. Static or stationary positions rob the muscles of needed oxygen resulting in fatigue. Static positions require more recovery than dynamic motions.
- Forceful exertions such as lifting, carrying, pushing, pulling or gripping may overload muscles and increase fatigue.
- Vibration to the hands and arms from grinders, sanders, needle guns, chipping hammers, impact wrenches or chainsaws can slowly rob the body of much-needed blood flow and result in injury to the blood vessels, nerves or muscles.
- Repetitive motions of the wrists, arms, back, neck or knees occur from repeating the same motion repeatedly at a fast pace with little variation in the task. Frequent repetitive motions slowly fatigue the muscles and decrease productivity.
- Contact stress occurs when there is continuous contact or rubbing between hard or sharp objects and surfaces and sensitive body parts such as the fingers, palms, elbows, thighs, knees or feet. The contact creates localized pressure that reduces blood flow, nerve function and movement of tendons and muscles.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Ben Zavitz, CPE is the President and Chief Ergonomist of Ergo Human Performance LLC, an ergonomics and human performance consulting firm that has developed many unique tools, methods, solutions, and programs for the Maritime Industry that minimizes risks and losses, and maximizes efficiency and company goals. He is a Board Certified Professional Ergonomist (CPE) with more than 20 years of experience implementing ergonomic, safety and process improvement programs for General Dynamics, Boeing and many Fortune 500 companies. Ben was the lead author of the OSHA Voluntary Ergonomic Guidelines for Shipyards and participated in the National Shipbuilding Research Program (NSRP) projects to develop and test solutions to address ergonomic/injury risk factors. He is a member of the CDC/NIOSH NORA Musculoskeletal Health Cross-Sector Council, Vice President of the Applied Ergonomics Society, and Program Chair for the Applied Ergonomics Conference, and has won several awards for his innovative and unique approach to ergonomics.
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