Ergonomics: A key input in the prevention of occupational injuries

What is ergonomics?

Ergonomics can be simply defined as the study of work, but more precisely, as the science of designing the job to fit the worker, rather than physically forcing the worker’s body to fit the job.

When the companies adapt tasks, workstations, and equipment to the worker, they can reduce physical stress and eliminate potentially serious, or even disabling work- related musculoskeletal disorders (MSD’s).

Why ergonomics is important?

Industries are increasing their production rates; as a result more workers of manufacturing companies are executing tasks including actions as:

  • Frequent lifting, carrying, and pushing or pulling loads without help from other workers or devices;
  • Working in production lines that requires fast and repetitive movements;
  • Working more than eight hours per day;
  • Having tighter grips when using tools;

These actions during work involve forced postures and repetitive movements that cause stress in the body, and may result in injuries called musculoskeletal disorder (MSD’s). The most common (MSD’s) are:

  • Upper limb: rotator cuff tendonitis, radial tunnel syndrome, epicondylitis, others.
  • Back injuries: herniated disk, lower back pain.
  • Lower limb: prepatellar bursitis (kneecap inflammation)

Benefits of ergonomics in the workplace

Some of the benefits of ergonomics are:

  • Increasing of production rate;
  • Job satisfaction;
  • Decreasing of stressing environments;
  • Reduction of physical discomfort in workers;
  • Simplifying tasks;
  • Knowledge of the aspects that improves the work environments

Reference legislation

Costa Rica has the following legislation for the ergonomics matter in the workplace:

  • General Regulations on Occupational Safety and Health, article 83 (furniture);
  • Agreement No. 2291-2015 Ordinary session of the Occupational Health Council N º1846-2015 (area and volume, hallways); and
  • Construction Safety Regulation, article 18 (manual handling).

In addition, there are the following reference standards:

  • INTE ISO 6385-2016 Principles of design
  • INTE ISO 7730-2016 Thermal comfort
  • INTE ISO 9241-1-2016 Data visualization
  • INTE ISO 11064-4-2016 Distribution and dimension
  • INTE ISO 11228-1-2016 Lifting and transport

Accident rate in Costa Rica

According to the Occupational Health Council, in 2014, 15% of all reported accidents were associated to physical overload risks; and in 2015, the rate increased to 18%.

Ergonomic Evaluation Tools 

Futuris uses internationally recognized tools that assess risk the factors on each job position and the different work conditions.

Some of these tools are explained as follow:

Rapid Upper Limb Assessment (RULA)

RULA was developed to evaluate the exposure of individual workers to ergonomic risk factors associated with upper extremities MSD’s. The RULA ergonomic assessment tool considers biomechanical and postural load requirements that the job tasks/demands on the neck, trunk and upper extremities.

Manual Handling Assessment Charts (MAC Tool)

The MAC tool was developed to help the user to identify high-risk workplace manual handling activities, and can be also used to assess the risks associated with load lifting tasks, carrying and team manual handling activities.

Assessment of repetitive Tasks (ART Tool)

The Assessment of Repetitive Tasks is a tool designed to assess repetitive tasks involving the upper limbs. It assesses some of the common risk factors in repetitive work that contribute to the development of upper limb disorders.

Seating at work

It is a guide created by Health and Safety Executive of United Kingdom that shows how to ensure the safety and suitability of workplace seating. It is addressed to those responsible of health and safety departments and it is also useful as guide for employees, manufacturers, designers, suppliers and users of industrial and office furniture.

Computer Workstations eTool

It is a checklist created by Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA). It can help to create a safe and comfortable workstation. This tool assesses working postures, seating, monitor, working areas and accessories.

Our ergonomic projects

Futuris team has carried out more than 500 ergonomic assessments using the tools described above.

The table bellow shows a summary of the assessments carried out by Futuris.

 

Company Sector Summary
ICE Power & Utilities Ergonomic risk assessment for the operations of three hydroelectric plants and designing of control measures.
Allergan Medical Products Pharmaceutical & Health Care Ergonomic risk assessment (Job Safety Analysis) at approximately 30 workstations associated with manual operations for the manufacture of medical devices using MAC and ART tools. Designing of an action plan and support in the selection of engineering measures along with the site staff through an Ergonomic Committee.
Coca Cola  

Food & Drink

 

Ergonomic risk assessment in 10 workstations of the Coca Cola Concentrate Plant through the application of 15 MAC evaluations (evaluation of manual handling), 46 ART evaluations (evaluation of repetitive movements) and 44 biomechanical evaluations.   Priorities were identified, additional infrastructure controls were proposed, and staff trained.
Migración Services Ergonomic evaluation for eight immigration offices across the country and a total of 228 workers, 225 evaluations of computer stations, 15 MAC evaluations (evaluation of manual handling), 27 evaluations ART (evaluation of repetitive movements) and 228 anthropometric evaluations were applied. The main risk factors included the poor design of some workstations, incorrect use of equipment, inadequate postures and manual handling of loads in places with obstacles such as doors and uneven floors. Improvements were proposed in infrastructure, training requirements and the creation of an order and cleaning program.
GlaxoSmithKline Services Ergonomic risk assessments for the offices in shared spaces.
Fiserv Services Ergonomic risk assessments for the offices in one of their facilities.
Hologic Surgical Products Pharmaceutical & Health Care Risk Assessment in Health, Safety and Ergonomics, for 252 production job positions. A tool was developed that combined the results of ergonomic evaluations (through ART and MAC) and the analysis of other health and safety hazards. In addition, a rotation plan was developed for each production line in which positions with low residual ergonomic risk rotated with others of high ergonomic risk, in order to decrease the risk level.
Banco Popular Services Risk Assessment in Health, Safety and Ergonomics, for over 50 administrative job positions.
Philips Volcano Pharmaceutical & Health Care Ergonomic risk assessment for 80 production job positions (through RULA, ART and MAC) on a medical device manufacturing plant. In addition, a rotation plan was developed for each production line in which positions with low residual ergonomic risk rotated with others of high ergonomic risk, in order to decrease the risk level.