Top 3 Ergonomic Risk-Factors

When assessing the workplace for ergonomic risks, three factors are usually targeted for elimination and reduction, where elimination is not possible. They are:

  1. Sustained Poor Posture
  2. High Task Repetition
  3. Forceful Exertion
Poor ergonomics can lead to muscle fatigue or strain

These 3 ergonomic risk-factors directly lead to muscle fatigue or strain, leaving the body open to injuries.

Sustained Poor Posture

Sustained poor posture is the most common risk factor and perhaps the best well-known. This is where all those better “ergonomically” designed chairs and tables come in.  There are plenty of ergonomical options in the market here in Singapore. However, not all are designed for our local Asian markets. Like it or not, the average Asian build is smaller. As such, even simple things like table designs for the global market place are often too “big” for us. For instance, the table tops are set too high. Even when they are adjustable, they sometimes cannot go low enough for extremely petite women in our society.

So bear this in mind when selecting tables and other equipment for the office. The best is to “test-drive” them with a small group of your office colleagues. They are representative of the types of build peculiar to your office setting.

High Task Repetition

Even when something is easy and seem relatively effortless to do once or twice, it can be a strain on the body when it has to be done many times over a short period of time without rest. It can be innocuous, like using the computer mouse on your desktop or typing on a keyboard at an awkward angle.  This type of ergonomic risk-factor is typically found in the assembly line or workshop setting. For example assembling an electronic component using the same motion over and over again.

But it is not completely absent in the white-collar office space.  One common example is the multiple data screen facing financial trades. The frequent turning of the head to face the numerous screens can lead to neck strain.

Forceful Exertion

This factor is most commonly represented by lifting of heavy loads in manual work. But is can also come about from vigorous efforts in pushing or twisting involving the whole body or smaller body part like the wrist when turning a heavy knob or lever.

But it is also important to note that more often than not, musculoskeletal injuries often occur not solely due to one risk factor but a combination them. For example, perhaps turning the dial doesn’t require too forceful an exertion but when done repetitively, injuries happen.

How Can We Minimise These Ergonomic Risk Factors?

Identifying these ergonomic risk-factors is the first step. Thereafter, a job redesign or environment adjustments have to be made. This is to minimise or eliminate these risks. However, sometimes this is not an option. That’s when we can to start preparing the body to better resist ergonomic risk factors – exercises to build better strength and stamina and learning to take the necessary rest break to recover from muscle fatigue.