Ergonomics

EHS&RM has developed a comprehensive Ergonomic Program at UAF. The program has three phases:

  • Phase one - an educational seminar in person or via web PowerPoint presentation
  • Phase two - on-site evaluation
  • Phase three - corrective actions

Carol Shafford is the program director, if you have questions regarding ergonomics; please contact her at 474-5413.

Responsibility:

Currently, there is no specific standard regarding ergonomics in the workplace. However, the legal basis for conducting an ergonomic assessment is found within the Occupational Health and Safety Act, Duties (General Duty Clause Section 5.) This section requires an employer to provide a work environment free of recognized hazards that may cause death or serious physical harm.

Departments are encouraged to purchase adjustable equipment for the reasonable accommodation of users. Some users may have special needs, such as left-handedness, color blindness, vision impairment, etc. The goal should be flexibility to accommodate the user population so that personnel may interface effectively with equipment. Equipment should be sized to fit the individual user.

Purpose:

Ergonomic furniture should be designed to facilitate task performance, minimize fatigue and injury by fitting equipment to the body size, strength and range of motion of the user. Office furnishing, which are generally available, have adjustable components that enable the user to modify the workstation to accommodate different physical dimensions and the requirements of the job. Ergonomically designed furniture can reduce pain and injury, increase productivity, improve morale, and decrease complaints.

The purchase of equipment should be task specific to eliminate (a) static or awkward posture, (b) repetitive motion, (c) poor access or inadequate clearance and excessive reach, (d) display that are difficult to read and understand, and (e) controls that are confusing to operate or require too much force. Therefore, furniture that is selected should be suitable for the types of tasks performed and be adaptable to multipurpose use. Office workstations must be designed carefully to meet the need of the staff and to accomplish the goals of the facility.

Design objectives should support humans to achieve the operational objectives for which they are responsible. There are three goals to consider in human-centered design.

  1. Enhance human abilities
  2. Overcome human limitations
  3. Foster user acceptance

To achieve these objectives, there are several key elements of ergonomics in the office to consider.

  1. Equipment - video display terminals
  2. Software design - system design and screen design for greater usability
  3. Workstation design - chairs, work surfaces and accessories
  4. Environment - space planning, use of colors, lighting, acoustics, air quality and thermal factors
  5. Training - preparing the workers to deal with technology

Ergonomic Evaluations:

The responsibility to ensure employees are not in discomfort due to poor ergonomics rests with individual departments. Purchasing of equipment recommended in the evaluation will be made by your department. There could be situations where Loss Prevention money may be available; however, this is not a guarantee.

As employees have become more aware of the Ergonomic Program there have been numerous requests for on-site evaluations. EHS&RM can attend department staff meetings to introduce the program by completing phase one - the one hour educational training session. This training highlights ergonomic principles, how to maximize what you already have, exercises and a section on what can potentially harm you. After the training session the employees return to their workstations and apply the principles they learned. On-site evaluations are then offered to those who would like.

EHS&RM receives many calls from individuals requesting a new chair, as they feel their chair is inadequate. It is extremely time consuming to do one on-site evaluation, cover all that is in the one hour training, and perform the one-on-one evaluation; only to have someone else in the office suddenly requesting an evaluation. This is the reason for the staff meeting approach; it saves time for your department and for the safety officer.