It's important to consider ergonomics in the workplace: doing so will help keep employees safe, healthy and productive
Ergonomics is the science concerned with the fit between workers and where they work. Taking time to examine ergonomics in the workplace can help ensure that each employee works in an environment and uses equipment tailored to their own personal requirements and the requirements of the job.
This can help minimise the risk of people becoming ill or injured at work.
Each employee is different. Even if two workers are carrying out the same task, it is likely that they will have slightly different ergonomic requirements.
Ergonomics in the workplace: computer equipment
If you have workers who use display screen equipment, communications devices and other computer hardware in an office environment it is likely that the risks they face will be relatively low.
However, prolonged use of some equipment can cause long-term, painful conditions. For example, workers using display screen equipment for long periods of time may experience eye strain, fatigue and headaches. Workers who spend much of their time doing typing or data entry using a keyboard or mouse can experience wrist, neck, back and other upper limb disorders.
To start getting to grips with ergonomics in the workplace, it's wise to carry out a health and safety risk assessment. In fact, you are legally obliged to do so - and if you have five or more employees, it must be in writing.
You must take steps to minimise any risks identified. As part of that process, you should also consider the ergonomics in your workplace.
Using ergonomics in your workplace
To assess the ergonomic requirements of your workers and workplace, you should consider a range of factors. These include:
- The job being done - the physical demands of the job, the environment the work is carried out in and the equipment used
- The person carrying out the job - their physical fitness for the task, their size, weight and posture, their senses including sight and hearing, their knowledge and experience
- The organisation of the company and the work - teamwork, workload of individuals and teams, the resources available to your workers including supervision and management and communication channels
Talk to your employees about any adjustments or additional equipment or support they might require. This might include:
- Ergonomically designed keyboards or mice
- Adjustable furniture to allow them to sit in a more comfortable position
- Replacing old monitors with newer, adjustable screens
- Reconfiguring the work space to make equipment, files and resources more accessible
The benefits of an ergonomic workplace
Taking workplace ergonomics into account when carrying out a risk assessment can help you minimise the risks of accidents, including manual handling injuries, slips, trip and falls and injuries such as repetitive strain injury, upper limb disorders and eye strain or headaches. It can also contribute to greater efficiency - which can reduce wastage and save time - increase productivity and contribute to the general well-being of your employees.
- For more information on ergonomics in the workplace, you can read the Health and Safety Executive publication: 'Ergonomics and human factors at work' on the HSE website.
- Manage the risks from display screen equipment
- Display screen risk assessment checklist
- Office risk assessment tool
- How to design an ergonomic workplace