Why Ergonomics In The Workplace MattersJanuary 13, 2017
If you think that ergonomics-related health risks are present only in jobs involving manual handling of heavy material, industrial environments, and among blue-collared workers, think again.
In 2013, the Singapore General Hospital conducted a large-scale survey among office workers in Singapore, and found that seven out of 10 working adults are affected by musculoskeletal discomforts. These ergonomics-related injuries – also known as musculoskeletal disorders (MSD) or repetitive strain injuries (RSI) – are being acknowledged today as “the silent epidemic” sweeping the desk-bound working population in Singapore.
Here, Yogesh Tadwalkar, managing director of ergonomics consultancy Synergo, shares more about desk-bound health and safety hazards, as well as tips on how you can avoid them.
What are the benefits of practicing proper workplace ergonomics?
Tadwalkar: Workplace ergonomics aligns job demands and design of environments with abilities of human body and mind. It improves the work posture, makes the job activities less strenuous, thereby minimising the harmful effects of repetitive tasks while enhancing productivity. The benefits for companies and employees are as follows:
Benefits for Companies
- Higher employee morale
- More goodwill among employees
- Increased worker productivity
- Reduced errors and accidents
- Reduced costs relating to workers’ compensation claims and lawsuits
- Reduced sick leave and absenteeism
- Higher employee retention
- Greater goodwill among society and media
Benefits for Employees
- Higher energy levels
- Increased focus and productivity
- Better control of one’s health at work
- Reduced work absences
- Reduced medical costs
- Reduced pain and suffering
- Higher work-life balance
What are some of the desk-bound health and safety hazards?
Tadwalkar: Prolonged desk-bound jobs performed in poor postures and without adequate breaks may lead to multiple, long-term musculoskeletal issues. These issues may initially manifest as soreness, persistent pain or reduced dexterity. Eventually they may develop into long-term RSI.
Here are some startling facts about the hazards of repetitive strain injuries:
- Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) estimates that over 700,000 RSI occur every year
- 15-25% of computer users throughout the world may have RSI
- 3 out of 5 office workers in Sweden have symptoms of RSI
- Every day 6 people in UK leave their jobs due to RSI
- Over 200 young Indian IT/ITES Professionals have lost their jobs because of advanced RSI
According to statistics released by Ministry of Manpower (MOM), Singapore in March 2014:
- Work-related musculoskeletal disorders (WRMSDs) were identified as the leading problem, accounting for 41% of all work-related health problems reported
- WSH Institute estimates that work-related musculoskeletal disorders and other ergonomic problems result in an economic loss of $3.5 billion a year to Singapore
- The cost to workers’ health and well-being is of course immeasurable, because it affects not just him, but also his family
Please provide solutions on how to counter the above hazards.
Tadwalkar: Considering the importance of workspace ergonomics for safeguarding the health and well-being of employees as well as to improve productivity, more and more companies in Singapore are investing in systematic ergonomics programs, such as seminars or training courses on the basics of ergonomics. You can also look out for one-to-one workstation assessment performed by qualified ergonomists – this service helps employees improve their postures as well as sets up the various workstation elements (chair, desk, monitor, keyboard, mouse, etc.) according to ergonomics best practices.
Can you please share other ergonomics-related tips for 9-5 desk-bound workers?
Tadwalkar: In general, all desk-bound employees should adopt the following ergonomics work practices:
- Sit as high as possible in your chair and take the full back support. This gets your spine in the idealS-shape and prevents back pain. If you need a footrest to be able to sit up high, get one.
- Try standing once in a while during work. Even if you don’t have the standing desk or have time to move about, attending to a phone call in standing position instead of sitting, walking up a colleague instead of emailing them, using a smaller water bottle instead of a large one (so you will get up to fill it up more frequently), etc. will provide your body opportunities to recuperate and keep you healthy
- Do not work on laptop without raising the screen to eye level as this can cause RSI like cervical spondylosis. Use a monitor or a laptop stand. You will also need an external keyboard and a mouse if you are using a monitor or a laptop stand.
- Do not use the mobile devices (phone, tablets) for extended periods. It is a good idea to use a stylus when using mobile devices and practice typing techniques like Swype.