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 (PREPA).
This organization maintains that this discipline is based on identifying, analyzing and reducing occupational hazards, 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: the ergonomics of systems, dedicated to work; correction ergonomics, dedicated to ending bad habits; the geometric, temporary, environmental and dedicated to new software and hardware platforms.
When it comes to a job within the office, Jose 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, those people who are obliged to handle weights are the most likely to need ergonomics studies, since they suffer more injuries. Within this sector, 4.8 percent suffer from diseases suffering from a lack of ergonomics in the workplace, according to the National Statistics Institute (INE).
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 regularly, according to this agency.
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, can lead to rheumatic problems,” he adds.
Given these health injuries, which have a great impact on the quality of life of workers, there are some tips that can prevent or mitigate the problems described, according to the secretary-general of the Association of Professionals of Physiotherapists:
Adjust the worktable – Working height is extremely important; as it ensures that the employee performs his or her work in a well-balanced body position. This adaptation must be organized in an effective way, with enough space to move around and change position from time to time.
Avoid being in the same position for long time ¬– Being in the same position over long periods of time can degenerate into various musculoskeletal disorders. So, it is suggestible for those people who are standing during their working day to have a sidewalk to be able to stand a foot above and thus relax the lower back.
Dress in a comfortable way – It is necessary to dress in loose clothing, which does not tighten and allow being comfortable in order to prevent bad postures. It is vitally important to wear comfortable shoes, to reduce the risk of possible rheumatic injuries resulting from excessive tension in the tendons of the legs.
Make a good night rest – Sleeping eight hours a day favors recovery in an optimal way, but also influences the appearance of injuries and to strengthen the immune system, so the employee will be less prone to get sick.
Lift weight sparingly – Governments usually determine the maximum weight that a worker can carry, however, Santos indicates “that it is advisable to transport weight with a straight back and flexing the knees to lift it off the ground.”
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 work absenteeism and improves the quality of service.
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