Pre-Planning for Good Ergonomics

Pre-Planning for Good Ergonomics

In life we plan many things: birthday parties, vacations, visits from relatives, etc. As we plan the things we do however, one item often left out is the ergonomics of the situation.

I ran across an article from the Oregon State OSHA web-site. It made a point of how important it is to plan out a job with ergonomics in mind. Here are the questions they posed to begin the planning task somewhat modified to fit a general audience.

  1. Do we have staging areas and set-up areas for any equipment, tools, or materials?
  2. Are the access paths level, clear, and slip resistant (This is aimed at control for slips, trips, and falls)?
  3. How can the work be set up so that it can be done above the kness and below the shoulders (waist height is preferable)? Now this one is very difficult if you are dealing with small children, animals,manual excavation or tasks such as mining.
  4. How can the work be done in a sitting position to prevent prolonged standing, stooping, kneeling, or squatting?
  5. For repetitive or long duration jobs, how can workers take breaks or trade off with other workers doing different jobs? This allows muscle recovery time and is very helpful in preventing RSI.
  6. Do you have material handling equipment available for managing awkward or heay loads? This may include everything from a forklift or crane to a tray, side table or wheeled tea cart.
  7. How are powered and non-powered hand tools selected and maintained to reduce awkward postures, forceful exertions, contact stresses and vibration? Tools can include anything from a jackhammer to a cake knife to a pair of bar–be–que tongs. This is an important point, even for family get–togethers. I have seen MANY disasters around the picnic table.

Good Planning Begins with Envisioning

The first thing you need to do is set up a timeline of events. This is the skeleton that gives you the activity flow. Once you have that, you can being to imagine the people flow from step to step of the plan. Can 50 people really move from one room to another through that small door in 5 minutes? Can I really weave through that mass of children carrying a cake without stepping on someone or dropping the cake? If the task is important, you will need to decide what is reasonable.

One very good tip (or several wrapped up in one) is to always plan things before you lift anything up.

  • Know where you are going and the path you will take. Make sure the path is clear before you set out.
  • Know where you will set the item down and that the space is clear.
  • Know how heavy the object is, how big it is, and that it will fit where you intend to put it. (I've seen a few failures around this one).

All of these points together help in preventing back injuries, neck and shoulder injuries, RSI, as well as slip, trips, falls, and many other events that could be disasters.

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