Story by Frank Gonzales
October is Ergonomics Awareness month, and it’s a good time to create awareness of human factors and ergonomics in a variety of ways.
Although any work environment can expose employees to ergonomic hazards, exposure can be minimized by making the proper changes. However, we need to be aware of ergonomic risks/hazards that are present when we perform a variety of tasks before we make changes.
These risks are found not only when performing work tasks but when at home as well. You may be exposed to ergonomic risks while on the computer at work, but also when working on your car, pulling weeds, snow shoveling and more. If proper changes are not made, you may be looking at an injury!
Unfortunately, ergonomics-related injuries (such as overexertion and repetitive motion) may not be seen after a day, week or even a month of working. Instead, these cumulative trauma disorders (CTDs) take time to appear. Have you ever thought, “I’ve been doing this job for 10+ years and I’ve never had a problem or noticed pain until today?” This is quite common with ergonomics-related injuries, and it is the reason they are referred to as “cumulative trauma” disorders.
How common are these disorders? The Liberty Mutual Workplace Safety Index 2016 indicated that overexertion injuries (ergonomics-related) account for more than $15 billion. Unfortunately, these injuries also ranked number one at CSU. The bottom line here – ergonomics-related injuries are common and costly.
Although there are ergonomic issues in every job task, office and computer work is becoming more prevalent. Many of us may feel that that because we have a sit/stand workstation, adjustable ergonomic chair, etc. that the likelihood for pain and injury is minimized. This may be especially true for our new buildings on campus where height-adjustable tables have been implemented along with ergonomic chairs and other ergonomic accessories. However, as Dr. Alan Hedge at Cornell University has stated, “so-called ergonomic products do not guarantee healthy work posture!” The correct height of the table, height and position of the keyboard and mouse, monitor(s), etc., are crucial regardless of whether you are sitting or standing. Unfortunately, proper adjustments are often neglected.
To address potential issues with your workstation, consider having an ergonomic evaluation. Visit
http://rmi.prep.colostate.edu/ergonomics/ergonomic-evaluation-request/ for more information. An ergonomic specialist will visit your work site and help identify potential issues, help with workstation/equipment adjustments and provide potential solutions, all of which will help minimize the risk for pain and injury. This can be done with your computer workstation, laboratory, etc. Ergonomics is not specifically for those in an office and applies to any work task! Evaluations are also free of charge.
In addition to an ergonomic evaluation, all employees are encouraged to receive proper training. Click the link below to access an online training session – How to Setup Your Computer Workstation. This training will help guide you through the setup of your chair, work surface, monitors, etc.
See the Risk Management Ergonomics website for additional ergonomics training sessions, instructor-led sessions, customized job specific training and educational sessions as well as job tasks, product, equipment assessment and review: http://rmi.prep.colostate.edu/ergonomics/
Contact the office for additional help and to have questions answered: