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What Is Human Factors and Ergonomics?
Human factors and ergonomics (abbreviated HF&E for short) refers to the functional design and fitting of a work environment to meet the unique needs of the worker or workers who use it. Employers often turned a blind eye to HF&E, assuming it offers little-to-no benefit to them. In reality, though, there are several reasons why all employers should implement HF&E in their respective workplaces. To learn more about human factors and ergonomics, as well as the benefits it offers, keep reading.
This alone should be reason enough to create an ergonomic working environment. Numerous studies have shown that workers who in engage in proper ergonomics tend to produce more, higher-quality work. And when workers' productivity goes up, the company reaps the benefits of increased profits. An ergonomic working environment promotes a healthy, comfortable atmosphere for workers to perform their normal daily tasks, so don't underestimate the importance of HF&E in your workplace.
Another reason why employers should implement HF&E is because it reduces the risk of work-related injuries. You might be wondering how exactly ergonomics can affect injury rates. Well, when workers are forced to work in awkward positions for eight or more hours a day, it can take a toll on their bodies, resulting in musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) like back pain, carpal tunnel syndrome, tarsal tunnel syndrome, etc.
“OSHA estimates that work-related musculoskeletal disorders in the United States account for over 600,000 injuries and illnesses (34 percent of all lost workdays reported to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS),” wrote the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) in a 2014 report on the prevention of musculoskeletal disorders. “These disorders now account for one out of every three dollars spent on workers' compensation. It is estimated that employers spend as much as $20 billion a year on direct costs for MSD-related workers' compensation, and up to five times that much for indirect costs, such as those associated with hiring and training replacement workers.”
Tips for implementing human factors and ergonomics in the workplace:
Encourage workers to engage in proper lifting techniques (e.g. lift with the legs, not the back).
Use heavy lift equipment to handle large and/or awkward loads.
Place anti-fatigue mats in workstations with hard floors.
Provide workers with interval breaks during their shifts.
Follow OSHA's guidelines to ensure workers are given a safe working environment.
In office settings, workers should have a proper desk/station with chairs that provide lumbar support for the lower back.