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Ergonomic Tips: Introduction

1. What is Ergonomics? Ergonomics is the science of making the workplace safer, more productive, and more comfortable for the worker. Ergonomics does this by designing jobs so that the physical demands of the job do not exceed the capacities of the Agents performing the job.

2. Ergonomics is not a new discipline. The term "ergonomics" has been in use for over a hundred years. The military has made extensive use of ergonomic design principles in aircraft design, etc., for nearly 50 years. However, the application of ergonomics in the computerized office is relatively new.

3. According to OSHA, cumulative trauma disorders (CTDs) are one of the fastest growing workplace injuries. However, do not get overly alarmed! Upper extremity CTDs are not common. They account typically for less than 5% of all workplace injuries and illnesses.

4. The sensation of pain or discomfort is a message from your brain that a body part is being over-worked or is working in an improper manner. Listen to what your body tells you!

5. Sometimes we are afraid to explore ergonomic changes because we are afraid of the cost. Statistics indicate that about 20% of all ergonomic changes cost nothing to implement.

6. Making ergonomic improvements in your work environment can lead to decreased risk of injury, and increased productivity on the job!

7. Don't assume that ergonomics is just "common sense". Take the time to learn about the principles of ergonomics and how they apply to your workplace.

8. What are Cumulative Trauma Disorders (CTDs)? CTDs are illnesses that develop slowly over time as a result of repeated biomechanical stress to a body part. If at any time you experience fatigue, discomfort, or pain when performing your job, contact your supervisor or a qualified physician.

9. You may also hear Cumulative Trauma Disorders (CTDs) referred to as Repetitive Motion Injuries, or Repetitive Strain Injuries.

10. Note that we refer to CTDs as an illness rather than an injury. The reason for this distinction is that CTDs develop slowly over time, as opposed to being the result of a single incident. Many people who develop CTDs have difficulty pinpointing a specific moment when the pain or discomfort first appeared.

11. What are Cumulative Trauma Disorders (CTDs)? CTDs is an umbrella term that covers literally dozens of different illnesses ranging from tendinitis (inflammation of tendons) to arthritis. Unfortunately, the one CTD that we hear the most about is Carpal Tunnel Syndrome. Carpal Tunnel Syndrome is a nerve disorder resulting from pressure on the median nerve that travels through the wrist (through the carpal tunnel). Because many CTDs have similar symptoms (pain, tingling, numbness, etc.) we may mistake minor discomforts and CTDs like tendinitis with more serious illnesses like Carpal Tunnel Syndrome.

12. There are three types of CTDs. The first category of illnesses are referred to as inflammation disorders. These include tendinitis, tenosynovitis, bursitis, and others. The "itis" at the end of the word means inflammation (tendon - itis means the tendon is inflamed). Tendon inflammation disorders are the most common type of CTD.

13. There are three types of CTDs. The second category of illnesses are referred to as nerve entrapment or nerve compression disorders. The most famous of these is Carpal Tunnel Syndrome. When tendons inflame (swell), they get larger. If this happens on a repeated or chronic basis, these inflamed tendons can place pressure on the nerves that travel next to them. The result is tingling and numbness in the affected body part.

14. There are three types of CTDs. The third category of illnesses are vascular tissue compression disorders. Vascular tissue refers to blood vessels. If pressure is placed against the blood vessels, blood flow can be impaired, which can lead to numbness and pain in the affected body part. Thoracic Outlet Syndrome (pressure on the neurovascular bundle that travels through the shoulder area) is an example of a vascular compression disorder.

15. We often think of CTDs as only affecting the hands and wrists. Actually, CTDs can occur at almost any joint of the body where repetitive, forceful, or awkward motions occur. Bursitis typically occurs in the shoulder joints. Epicondylitis occurs in the elbows (you may know this illness by the more common name of tennis elbow). Tension neck disorders occur in the neck region.

16. The various illnesses that we collectively refer to as Cumulative Trauma Disorders (CTDs) do not necessarily have to be the result of an ergonomically-stressful job. CTDs can develop based on individual factors such as obesity, certain diseases like diabetes, pregnancy, and physical stresses occurring off the job.

17. If your Company has an Ergonomics Team or Committee, get actively involved.

18. Many products are on the market with the label, "ergonomically designed". Be a smart consumer. There is no organization that certifies that a product that is labeled as being ergonomically designed is in fact better than a product without that label. In other words, anybody can call anything "ergonomically-designed" at this time.

19. There is no organization that certifies that a product that is labeled as being ergonomically designed is in fact better than a product without that label. However, there are organizations that have established ergonomic design guidelines for office furniture and equipment. For example, an ergonomically-designed chair should state that it meets the design guidelines established by ANSI (Amercian National Standard Institute) or ISO (International Standard Organization).

20. Ergonomic Terms. Tendons are connective tissues that connect muscles to bones in the body. Tendinitis refers to the inflammation of tendons that may be caused by highly repetitive or awkward motions.

21. Ergonomic Terms. Ligaments are connective tissues that connect bones with bones in the body. Ligaments are basically designed to restrict (define) the range of motion at a joint. If ligaments are stretched repetitively or for a long sustained period, the ligament may lose it's elasticity and weaken, making the body part more susceptible to injury.

Ergonomic Tips:  Introduction
Ergonomic Tips:  For Office Workers
Ergonomic Tips:  Workstation
Ergonomic Tips:  Physical Environment
Ergonomic Tips:  Psychosocial
Ergonomic Tips:  Materials Handling
Ergonomic Tips:  Vision & Monitors
Ergonomic Tips:  Personal Risk Factors

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