Safety Column A Resource For Safety Ron Armstrong Northwest Tank and Environmental Services Inc. Safety Officer
Ergonomics and Musculoskeletal Disorders Ergonomics and musculoskeletal disorders have be- come a greater focus in the safety industry. Ergonom- ics is the study of people’s efficiency in their working environment to prevent injuries and disorders that affect the human body’s movement. The purpose of such is to mitigate musculoskeletal disorders. Muscu- loskeletal disorders (MSD’s) are injuries or pain in the human body including the joints, muscles, ligaments nerves, tendons and supporting structures in the neck, back and limbs. Ergonomics, then, are the practices, processes and products put into place to mitigate musculoskeletal disorders. MSD’s can occur from exertion, repetitive motions, repetitive force, vibration or poor posture. I experienced this first hand when I assembled a din - ing room table and eight chairs using a hex wrench. It wasn’t a difficult task. It was, however, repetitive having to use one hand to turn the wrench in the same direction over and over again. After completing my project, I began getting a pain in the joint of my right thumb. It was the constant turning and tightening down of the bolts that had caused an MSD. One way to avoid MSDs is through administrative controls. Administrative controls make some kind of change to a person’s behavior. It would include mov- ing your feet opposed to twisting your body. If I had simply taken several ten or fifteen minute breaks, I probably would have avoided this injury. Both are examples of administrative controls.
Another way to avoid MSDs is through engineering controls. Engineering controls are a better solution than administrative controls because they make some kind of change in the worker’s environment or equip- ment. A power tool would have been an engineering control that would have mitigated my injury. Where engineering controls are not possible, administrative controls are the next best solution. One thing to keep in mind is that maintaining your body in a neutral position will protect you from MSDs. The two images below are good examples. These are both ergonomic mice. The one on the left is considered ergonomic because it fits the neutral position of your hand. When your hand is held in a neutral position, it forms a cup. The mouse on the right is also considered ergonomic, but takes into consideration the neutral position of your wrist. With your arm hanging at your side, you will notice that your palm is not directly facing your leg. It’s turned at a 45 degree angle. This is its neutral position. The mouse on the right accounts for that neutral position. The mouse on the left is ergonomic as far as your hand is concerned, but can lead to problems in your wrist and forearm. The mouse on the right is a better solution since it takes into consideration your hand and wrist, making it the more ergonomic option.
2022 Issue 3
2022 Issue 3
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