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The working environment can put employees at risk of getting injuries and long-term health problems, which is why ergonomics training is important.
The safety of workers should be every employer’s priority when laying the foundation, of the workplace.
For a successful ergonomic process, your team should be well trained and capable of finding and fixing problems, in your work environment.
Even so, it’s the responsibility of everyone in the workplace to have adequate training, on how to use tools to execute their role in the ergonomic process, and this goes for the entire leadership team and all the team members.
The training content should be divided based on the duties and responsibilities, assigned to each team throughout the organization.
In this ergonomics training article, I am going to discuss some tips to observe in the workplace, for a safer working environment.
Table of Contents
- 1. Recognize Workplace Hazards And Risks
- 2. Regular Time Breaks
- 3. Regular Meetings On Workplace Safety
- 4. Wear Protective Equipment
- 5. Stay Sober
- 6. Use Mechanical Handling Aids When Possible
- 7. Maintain Correct Posture
- 8. Report Unsafe Conditions
- 9. Ensure Proper Training
- 10. Service Your Tools And Machinery Regularly
- Final Thoughts
1. Recognize Workplace Hazards And Risks
The key to reducing workplace risks begins, with understanding what can lead to a potential hazard or incident.
According to many employees, the majority of items surrounding them don’t seem threatening at all, until an incident occurs with one of them.
Employers should consider this, from the start of the business when laying a foundation.
Hazards should also be identified, by carrying out a workplace risk assessment annually, or in case of an incident, to determine how employees might be at risk.
There are six categories of hazards all workers face, at least once in a while.
These are risks in hospitals, laboratories, and some companies, where employees get exposure to viruses, animals, insects, bacteria, etc.
They cause adverse health impacts, such as mold, long-term blood diseases, and also cause damage to plants.
These are hazardous substances that cause both health and physical impacts, such as skin irritation, blindness, respiratory system irritation, corrosion, and explosions.
There are various means to avoid coming into contact with chemicals, such as following policies and using protective equipment.
It includes environmental factors such as heights, noise, radiation, and pressure, that can harm an employee without necessarily coming into contact with them.
They are hazards that create unsafe working conditions, for example, exposed wires, leaking tap, damaged carpet, etc.
They also fit the category of physical hazards.
They result in physical factors such as a poor workstation in the office, poor posture, and manual handling.
It mainly depends on how an employer sets up the workplace, and the measures in place such as adjustable chairs, standing desks, etc., to ensure the safety of employees.
Workplaces don’t only affect an individual physically but, also mentally and psychologically.
Mental health and wellbeing can also be affected, by issues like sexual harassment, victimization, stress, and violence among colleagues.
2. Regular Time Breaks
Workplaces tend to have a fast-paced environment, with little time to take breaks.
It’s common to find many employees eating lunch at their desks, and some even go the whole day without a meal.
Some employees don’t take the breaks they have, or when they do, they don’t get to enjoy them fully.
Employees should always be encouraged to take breaks, since, the above act is a hazardous practice.
The following are the importance of regular employee breaks:
Lower Physical Ailments
Obesity, heart diseases, and diabetes are conditions, that individuals who sit continuously, for more than 6 hours in a day are likely to suffer from.
Taking short breaks at intervals can help shed some pounds, and some stretching exercises to improve circulation.
A break will also help relieve eye strain, which results from staring at a computer for too long.
When the mind gets overworked or overloaded by too much data or activity, it can ultimately lead to stress.
Having an issue, maybe a family problem that’s stressing you during work, causes an employee to display a negative behavior towards work.
When having stress, an employee should take a break and revisit one’s mental state.
In a working environment, there’s a general belief, that employees who take regular breaks are more productive.
A break significantly boosts an employee’s performance, by gearing them up to work again.
This renewal of energy enables them to complete tasks more accurately, with fewer or zero errors, therefore causing the worker to maintain continuous successive production.
3. Regular Meetings On Workplace Safety
Regular safety meetings are essential to the workplace, mainly if your work revolves around dangerous equipment and chemicals.
It doesn’t matter the type of business you are involved in; your employees and customers should stay safe and if possible, risk-free.
Everyone in the workplace needs to stay informed, about the risks involved and the steps one should take, to avoid injuries or even death.
There are four categories under which reasons for safety meetings fall.
When there are safety meetings set at specific intervals, employees don’t become complacent with rules and guidelines.
Such meetings allow for a follow-up on the safety procedures, that keep everyone safe.
It also causes workers to follow safety routines when reminded frequently.
Safety routine behavior decreases the attention required, to follow some basic safety practices.
During the training of employees on safety measures, there should be ergonomics professionals involved, to explain procedures better and test employee memory retention.
With these procedures, an employee knows what to do in case of an emergency.
What’s even better is, that they have the knowledge to prevent an emergency.
You should be able to evaluate your employees’ ability, to retain information introduced by trainers.
This information enables you to know the best cause of action to take, to minimize accidents in the workplace.
During safety meetings, you get to discuss accidents that have happened and the steps to take, to avoid a repetition of the same.
There can also be the introduction of new policies or the removal of a flawed procedure, that requires changes.
4. Wear Protective Equipment
Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) protects a worker, against health and safety risks at work.
Ensuring safety in a workplace requires instructions, procedures, training, and supervision of employees.
What is more, engineering controls and safe systems of work, such as equipment, can minimize some hazards.
There are several types of PPE, an employer should always make available for workers:
Head and Neck
Head and neck injuries can result from falling or flying objects, bumping your head, entanglement of hair in machinery, chemical drips, climate, or temperature.
Employers should ensure there are safety options such as helmets, hairnets, firefighters’ helmets, or bump caps.
This equipment should be replaced instantly in case of damage.
Exposure to high sound levels over long durations is hazardous and very high sound levels should not even get a direct path, to a human’s ear.
You can prevent the health problems associated with noise, by use of earplugs, earmuffs, canal caps, etc.
Hands and Arms
Arm and hand injuries are frequent in the production and manufacturing industries, which demands plenty of manual labor.
The injuries can result from temperature extremes, radiation, impact, electric shock, prolonged immersion in water, etc.
The options that should be made available for employees are gloves, gloves with a cuff, gauntlets, and sleeves, that cover the entire arm.
It’s a very crucial part of the body, that requires maximum protection when working.
Dust, oxygen-deficient atmosphere, gases, and vapors cause injuries or health problems, in the lungs.
There are several options of respiratory protective equipment (RPE), that employers can provide:
- Self-contained breathing apparatus
- Filtering facepieces
- Respirators and power-assisted respirators
- Compressed airline
5. Stay Sober
Sobriety is a challenging necessity for some people in employment.
Individuals who have dealt with addiction problems before are always afraid, of having a relapse.
Employees who have drinking or drug problems, have a hard time learning to be social while maintaining sobriety, especially in the workplace.
Intoxicated employees pose a danger to the work environment, by being more prone to mistakes and accidents.
It doesn’t matter the legality or type of drug an individual has taken, an individual working under the influence amplifies the risk, that already exists in the workplace.
It’s upon an employer to learn how to implement policies and take action, to manage workers with addictions.
How to Manage Employees With Substance Abuse Problem
Implement a drug-free work policy that is shared with all employees, clearly indicating the expectations of workers, regarding alcohol and drug abuse.
Some organizations schedule regular mandatory drug tests, to find out whether employees are sticking to the policies.
There are some behavioral characteristics associated with substance abuse.
They may not indicate a substance abuse problem in an individual, but warranty the employer to conduct a further investigation.
Some of these warning signs include:
- Absenteeism without notification or excess use of sick days
- Lengthy, frequent unexplained disappearances from the worksite
- Unreliability in meeting deadlines and keeping appointments
- Physical signs such as morning-after hangovers, exhaustion, dilated pupils, unsteady walk or slurred speech
When employers have enough reason or evidence, that an employee has a substance abuse problem, confronting them should be the first step.
Employers have every right, to comment on an employee’s particular behavior change and demand an explanation.
When such confrontations escalate, a drug test is the best solution to clear things up, since it can be a misunderstanding, that can lead to quarrels.
6. Use Mechanical Handling Aids When Possible
When designing a workplace, it’s essential to consider permanent mechanical aids, such as pneumatic lifts, conveyors, and automatic material handling equipment.
Other temporary mechanical equipment, that can aid some heavy tasks in a work environment are book trucks, hand trucks, carts, pallet jacks, etc.
Some of the mechanical aids used are complex and require an employee to undertake training, on how to operate the equipment.
Mechanical handling aids, help reduce the number of manual tasks an employee has to perform.
Some of these tasks are tiring or put the body in awkward postures for long, which is a health risk.
If you have no access to a mechanical aid, here is a list for safe lifting and moving of materials:
- Avoid bending over by maintaining the correct posture with the lift close to the body
- Lift carefully and deliberately with no sudden movements
- Don’t ever lift a heavy material from a sitting position
- Your lifts should be shoulder high with a full grasp of your hands on the object
- Avoid successive lifts of heavy objects by asking for assistance from your coworkers
- Maintain a clear line of sight with no objects in your way
- Make the use of conveyors, slides, carts, forklifts, and other devices to avoid unnecessary lifting or pushing of objects
- If possible, reduce load size by making several rounds for smooth movement
The day-to-day operations in an organization, involve a lot of material handling by employees.
Some of the objects workers need to carry from one place to another, are too heavy, which can cause physical strain to the body’s muscles.
In the overall safety program, a plan for materials handling should be a priority, with ample time and resources allocated to it.
7. Maintain Correct Posture
A posture is a position in which you hold your body upright, against the forces of gravity while sitting or standing.
The main reason for back pain, repetitive strain injuries, and stress is poor workplace posture.
It causes health problems and low morale in employees, which eventually leads to poor performance, higher business costs, and decreased productivity.
Employers, with below-par ergonomic workplaces, can legally face punishment for risking the lives of employees.
The damage caused by back pains slowly, and silently impacts the long-term health of an individual.
Simple Ways to Improve Your Posture at Work
In an office job, there are plenty of tricks you can use to maintain a healthy posture.
Keeping your ears in line with your shoulders is, a good trick while sitting at a desk.
Your posture becomes off-kilter when you lean too much forward, or backward.
A small shoulder and chest exercise to loosen you up, such as standing up the wall with your legs spread apart, and your arms at a ninety-degree angle on both sides.
The best way to sit in a chair demands, that you place your feet flat on the ground.
Some individuals cross their legs or stick them out in front.
Whereas they may find this comfortable, it’s an unhealthy practice that should be minimized or completely quashed.
A lumbar support pillow is one of the best solutions, to help prevent back pain and muscle fatigue.
It forces you into the correct position anytime you sit down and supports your spine.
Rounded shoulders, is a condition you can quickly get, where your shoulders slightly shift forward due to your posture.
This condition is reversible, but it can also be prevented by frequently pulling back your shoulder blades.
8. Report Unsafe Conditions
An unsafe condition is that which increases the risks and dangers of accidents, or even death, and workers get exposure to such working conditions daily.
They are difficult to predict, recognize, prevent, and correct, whereas the results can be moderate to severe injuries, or even death.
Employers are responsible, for taking steps to minimize these risks or reduce the impact they have on the human body.
The following are examples of unsafe working conditions to look out for in the workplace:
- Defective equipment that may have been used for long until it wears out without repair or replacement
- Workplace congestion where the company grows but the workspace doesn’t
- Broken warning systems and signs that workers may realize about later when it’s too late after an accident
- A dirty workplace with a lack of cleaning and poor housekeeping
- Hazardous air conditions that lead to respiratory issues due to hour and hours of breathing contaminated air
- Operating equipment an employee has no knowledge about and without authorization is a massive red warning sign
- Using defective or worn-out equipment that requires repair or replacement
If you discover such dangerous working conditions, it’s critical to inform your supervisor.
The company should take immediate action, to reduce the risk a worker faces when working.
Failure to do so can push the employee, to the extent of taking legal action against the organization, for continuing to put the worker in clearly visible harm’s way.
9. Ensure Proper Training
Employees and organizations that expand their knowledge and skills, through workplace ergonomics training, perform effectively in their jobs.
Training also improves and puts employees, in a position likely to gain promotion.
It’s an effective way to boost productivity, safety, and maintain quality standards.
There are several different types of training and development for employees.
It happens in almost every company, the same way it happens to students in an institution for the first time.
It’s a process for new employees, that includes a range of topics, including company mission, vision, and values, leadership team, corporate policies, etc.
In this training, an employee learns how to protect themselves from work-related injuries.
The types of topics discussed here are safety best practices, first aid, protective gear, food service safety, etc.
Technical Skills Development
In every employee role, there are specific skills required.
Skills learned through this form of training include programming, content writing, data analysis, coding, etc.
This type of training is suitable for new employees and those who are already competent, looking to further their knowledge and stay current with new technologies.
Soft Skills Development
An employer will demand you to behave professionally and function as part of a team.
Soft skills are personal traits such as teamwork, presentation, communication, leadership, and ethics, that enable you to communicate and work with workers cooperatively.
The purpose of this training is, to enable team members, to build better and stronger working relationships.
It mainly occurs following the restructuring of a company, merging, or acquisition, where many employees will be working together for the first time.
10. Service Your Tools And Machinery Regularly
In some companies, tools and machines only get to be serviced in case of a breakdown or malfunction, however, this should not be the case.
As an employer, your main aim should be to ensure, that you prevent the occurrence of any malfunction of equipment.
Tools, equipment, and machines in a company should all go through a systematic care process, that keeps them in a safe, usable condition.
If a machine breaks down, the business processes slow down, thereby incurring losses and costs for repair, and more importantly, someone could get hurt in the process.
Machines that receive regular maintenance and servicing live longer, and perform as required of them.
There are six general requirements observed during equipment maintenance:
- Obtain the copy of the maintenance schedule that the manufacturer provides and recommended
- Ensure the maintenance process is as efficient as recommended by the manufacturer
- Ensure that the individual(s) performing the maintenance are well-qualified professionals, they should be licensed
- Take and retain records of service conducted
- As an employer, specify who is responsible for overseeing the servicing of equipment and storing records
- Set up a system for the removal and tagging of faulty or defective tools and equipment
The kind of tools, and equipment used in your company, determine the degree of detail, to include in your business’ maintenance program.
Some heavy equipment, like cranes used in construction, requires specific inspection and maintenance requirements.
Others, like company trucks, cars, and vans, may only require basic maintenance.
The process of servicing your tools and equipment is, also known as preventive maintenance.
Both employers and employees, have a part to play to ensure excellent ergonomics in the workplace.
An employee should not take it lightly when an employer, allows him to work in hazardous conditions, that can bring harm to his health.
An agency known as the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), of the United States, is responsible for ensuring safety in the workplace, and a healthy work environment.
It’s a clear indication that the US government takes employee safety seriously, and so should employers.
It’s quite impossible to get rid of all the risks in the workplace, but it’s possible to minimize them as well as the impact, thus, in case of an accident, there should be measures such as first aid kits, and staff should be trained on giving first aid.
Ergonomics training in the workplace ensures, more collaboration and safer processes.
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