Definition of Ergonomics
Ergonomics is the scientific discipline concerned with the understanding of interactions among humans and other elements of a system, and the profession that applies theory, principles, data, and methods to design in order to optimise human well-being and overall system performance. A less formal definition refers to the study of the interaction between man and machine or his working environment. The term environment encompasses the ambient environment (illumination, noise, temperature), as well as the tools and materials used, and the methods and organisation of work, either as an individual or within a working group.
- The Ergonomics Regulations was released on 6 December 2019 and applies to any employer or self-employed person who carries out work at a workplace, which may expose any person to ergonomic risks in that workplace (Section 2(a)). It also applies to designers, manufacturers, importers or suppliers of machinery, plant or work systems for use at a workplace (Section 2(b)).
- Regulation 6 of the Ergonomics Regulations (2019) states that an Ergonomics Risk Assessment must be performed by a competent person before the commencement of any work that may expose employees to ergonomic risks. In addition, such an assessment must be reviewed if it is no longer valid, control measures are no longer effective, or an incident occurred, or medical surveillance reveals an adverse health effect, where ergonomics are identified as a contributing factor.
- Regulation 7 requires employers to introduce adequate control measures to remove or reduce ergonomic risks, as soon as is reasonably practicable in accordance with the hierarchy of controls.
Ergonomics Risk Assessment
- According to the Ergonomics Regulations (2019) an Ergonomic Risk Assessment is defined as a programme, process or investigation implemented to identify, analyse, evaluate, and prioritise any risk from exposure to ergonomic risks associated with the workplace.
- Depending on the type of ergonomic risk(s) present, various types of Ergonomic Assessment Tools may be applied to the tasks and/or job activities, in order to assess the risks involved.
- Apart from interviewing employees, various human and task variables will be observed and recorded to determine the risk involved (if any) in each job description.
- The Ergonomic Risk Assessment must include the following:
- A complete hazard identification;
- The identification of all persons who may be affected by the ergonomic risks;
- How employees may be affected by the ergonomic risks;
- The analysis and evaluation of the ergonomic risks; and
- The prioritisation of ergonomic risks.
- An Ergonomics Risk Assessment must be conduced at intervals not exceeding two years.
Types of Ergonomics Risk Assessments:
- It is a common feature of today’s office environment that a significant percentage of employees work at seated workstations. In addition, the majority of office workstations support interactive computer work. A need has therefore arisen to attain an understanding of the relationship between humans and modern office environments.
- According to the International Labour Organisation (ILO), the increasing number of musculoskeletal disorders related to sedentary office work worldwide stems from a lack of attention to ergonomics in the office. For companies to address the ever-growing problem of modern-day musculoskeletal disorders related to office work, it is essential that ergonomics becomes an integral element of occupational health and safety programmes.
- Manual Materials Handling (MMH) is defined as any activity requiring the use of force exerted by a person to lift, lower, push, pull, carry, or otherwise move, hold, or retrain an object (ISO 1128-1:2003). Manual handling also describes repetitive actions with or without force, sustained work postures, exposure to whole-body or hand-arm vibration, bending, twisting, and reaching. Manual handling occurs intermittently in most jobs.
- WRULD’s usually develops over a period of time and generally involves a job with high-risk activities for a period of more than six months. Symptoms can be due to, aggravated or precipitated by factors including, but not limited to, highly repetitive movements, movements requiring force or extreme reaching, awkward sustained postures, contact-stress, and vibration.
- Workers use various pushing and pulling techniques in a wide range of activities, such as using manual carts, trucks, sliding objects on flat surfaces, opening and closing doors, and wrapping objects in packaging materials.
- Ergonomics in the automotive sector refers to the optimal adaptation of a vehicle to the people inside it. This minimises the strain placed on both driver and/or passengers. Various types of vehicles can be assessed and include forklifts, heavy machinery, such as front-end loaders, trucks and commercial vehicles.