Although it is helpful to work with an ergonomic specialist who can show you ways in which to make your work less stressful on the body, a common-sense approach to activities can also make a difference. This multi-part series will offer some common-sense tips - based on the ergonomic principles of avoiding repetition, force and awkward postures - that can help you avoid pain while working.
Part 1 discussed methods of reducing repetitive movements in the workplace. Part 3 will discuss methods of reducing awkward postures and positioning.
This is Part 2 � a discussion of methods to avoid excessive force during activity.
Several years ago I worked with a woman who was avoiding cooking activities because opening cans and chopping food hurt. She had not purchased any new kitchen ware in many years and was using an old manual can opener. The dullness of the knife and can opener blades resulted in the woman having to use excessive bodily force when performing these kitchen tasks - straining the muscles in her arms and hands. Purchasing new knives with sharper blades and an electrical can opener allowed her to enjoy cooking again without pain.
Methods of Reducing Force
To reduce the force or exertion required to perform specific activities, use the appropriate tool for the job and maintain tools in good working order.
- Blades should be kept sharp.
- Wheels on carts should be clean and free of debris and roll easily.
- Use weaker springs in triggers
- Use levers rather than knobs.
- Use longer handles for better leverage.
- Use clamps to hold parts instead of holding with the other hand.
- Alternate between hands whenever possible if performing a repetitive task that requires heavy force.
- Organize your work station so that all the needed materials are within easy reach.
- Use textured or non-slip grips when opening jars, gripping tools, handles or objects. A slippery surface requires extra grip strength to hold the object.
- Don�t use your hand as a hammer.
- Avoid sudden impact, jerking, or sudden start-stop movements.
- When lifting or moving objects, keep them close to your body.
- Push rather than pull.
Next Week � Methods for Avoiding Awkward Postures
Marji Hajic is an Occupational Therapist and a Certified Hand Therap
ist practicing in Santa Barbara, California. For more information on hand and upper extremity injuries, prevention and recovery, visit Hand Health Resources.