Ergonomics – very much a late twentieth century word. It means the study of the application of biology and engineering to the relationship between workers and their environment. It may be a word you have never used nor even heard. In lay terms, it means making the working environment fit the individual’s needs.

The last twenty years has seen an increase in health and safety awareness. This covers a multitude of issues, from infection control to fire awareness and its main purpose is to identify hazards and prevent accidents. Ergonomics is much the same thing, this time looking at the working environment and how we can prevent discomfort to the body e.g. back pain, repetitive strain injury (RSI) and eye strain. A basic example might be that a woman with multiple sclerosis (MS) has to do a lot of walking with her office job and by looking at the location of her computer workstation and the reasons that she needs to walk to other areas within the building, a plan can be formulated to cut down on distances travelled. This could be as simple as moving filing cabinets closer to her computer workstation, or finding her an office closer to the filing area. Ergonomics at work

Sometimes, in the name of work, we put our bodies through assault courses:-

*stretching for files on high shelves
*shuffling under the desk, to unplug the computer.
*putting the swivel chair through its paces, so as it reach this or that.
*working at the computer, even though the office chair isn’t a suitable height to comfortably use the keyboard.

Addressing these issues and making the working environment more user-friendly is ergonomics.

I remember a case of a young and fit gentleman who did shuffle under the desk to unplug his computer, at the end of his working day. The injury that this seemingly simple task caused led to a lengthy period of sickness and the need for a workstation assessment. The assessment identified the need for an ergonomic office chair that was going to give his neck and back the support that they needed, to prevent any exacerbation to his unfortunate condition.

So, ergonomics is two-fold. For the employer, such considerations create a safer working environment and risk assessments may identify needs within particular work areas. For the employee, it creates a more user-friendly environment, making work more comfortable and injury less of a likelihood. With benefits all round, paying attention to ergonomics definitely makes sense.