Ergonomics for Laborers and Skilled Trades

Written By Daniel Aday, CompOne Administrators Safety & Loss Prevention Specialist

Whether it is fitting a door, installing a washer, tightening a leaky faucet, running electrical or just driving a nail, ergonomics needs to be applied to each and every physical task that is performed. When most people think of ergonomics they may think of a comfy chair or a desk set at a proper height for typing, but it is so much more than that.

Ergonomics has become a trending word in everything from the news reports to business names to descriptions of car accessories. The truth behind ergonomics is that the best time to incorporate them is when the job is being created. The second best time is right now. Ergonomics is quite simply the most efficient way to go about doing something, period. Whenever an injury occurs, it is because there were additional unneeded forces created on the body. Streamlining work, while using the least amount of strength to do the job is not only going to improve the job itself, but minimize injuries to the body, as well, and boosts productivity. To go about avoiding ergonomics altogether is costing you time, productivity and injury. The best time to implement ergonomics is when a job, task or operation is still in the development phase. Everything from purchasing the proper hand tools to ensuring everyone has supportive shoes to having equipment available, if a situation warrants the need for it.

Starting off with hand tool handles – the next time purchasing anything that is meant to be held when used, there is a design factor that must not be ignored. Everything from the material it is made up of, to how it conforms to the hand should be considered. If it feels cheap, it will feel even cheaper when it is heavily used. Avoid hand tools with pre-formed finger slots. Ensure the handle is large enough to grasp, but not so large that the hand can’t fully close around it. Look for non-slip grips that are not too rough. Take a moment right now to look at your palm, then slowly close your hand into a fist. Halfway through closing, take a look at the opening between your fingers, palm and thumb. That shape is the shape you want to look for when choosing a tool’s handle. It is usually not perfectly round, but oval in shape.

Shoes with good soles are probably the most important aspect of a job that involves being on your feet most of the day. If you ever met someone who is cranky, it is most likely that they have uncomfortable shoes. Do not pick shoes for their design, but for protection and comfort. A comfortable shoe is one that has a supporting arch, a heel pad that absorbs the shock of each step, for millions of steps (1 million steps equals about 500 miles. The average person walks about 1,000 miles every year.) The shoes should allow good airflow. If your feet hurt by the end of the day, replace your shoes. If you can’t replace them, get shoe inserts. You can get your feet scanned at almost any RX store that sells shoe inserts. (You will thank me later!)

Injury occurs when there is a lack of adequate personnel, equipment or available resources. This is where some creativity, design and planning come into play. Everything from implementing administrative controls that ensure team lifting for anything over “X” number of pounds, to utilizing inexpensive tools like appliance dollies, drywall lifts (which can be used for more than just drywall) or lifting straps. All of these, when used safely, minimize injuries. While initially there may be a learning curve to these items, they will save time by means of not having loss time accidents or life-long injuries.

Additionally, train workers and staff on means of ergonomic improvements and proper lifting. For any assistance with ergonomic training or improvements for specific tasks, reach me at Daday@compone.net 

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