The Importance of Ergonomics

By Zaheer Osman - BSc (Hons) DPS CErgHF FIEHF EurErg CMIOSH

As we welcome in 2017, it is important to quickly review what 2016 has been like for our health and wellbeing in office environments from an ergonomics perspective. As outlined in the foundation training and DSE training that many of you have attended, ergonomics is one of the main gateways to ensuring positive wellbeing in the workplace, as summarised in the diagram below:

The latest HSE statistics for 2016 have shown the below:

• Annually 1.2 million people suffer from work related ill health

• 2015/2016 30.4 million working days lost (up from 27.3 million in the previous year)

25.9 million due to work-related ill health (up from 23.3 million in the previous year)

4.5 million due to workplace injury (up from 4.4 million in previous year)

• Stress, Depression and Anxiety - 11.7 million working days lost (45% of total number of days lost in 2016)

• Musculoskeletal disorders – 8.8 million days lost (34% of total number of days lost in 2016)

• Direct and indirect costs to employers

• Workplace injuries and ill-health cost society 14.1 billion per year (in 2014/2015)

• Cost to Society £9.3 billion from ill health and £4.8 billion from injury

The office environment may seem very ‘low risk’ but the above issues of Musculoskeletal disorders and Stress/Depression/Anxiety are rife in office environments. These issues have to be taken seriously.

Top Tips

Here are some tips for companies to ensure a healthier, happier and more productive office environment:

• Choose furniture such as desk and chairs with adjustability and ergonomics in mind

• Ensure that DSE assessments are conducted for all staff

• Ensure employees are aware of how to use desks and chairs optimally

• Provide work areas that are fit for purpose; this may include the following zones:

o Concentration (quiet with minimal interruptions)

o Confidential (where sensitive work can take place)

o Collaboration (where ideas can be shared easily)

o Communication (suited to get messages across to audiences)

o Communal (where people can get together without prior booking)

• Encourage activity and movement in the workplace, we were not designed to sit in one position for several hours!

• If you have a height adjustable desk try to aim to sit for 40 minutes and stand for 20 minutes every hour – allowing two postural changes per hour

• Try and stand up and walk around the office for 2 – 3 minutes every hour

• When seated maintain an upright spine with your head, shoulders and hips in alignment

• When seated unlock your chair and set the tension to moderate (if applicable) to allow some healthy movement

• Take your lunch away from your desk

• Take every opportunity to get out of the chair (e.g. stand up and speak to colleagues rather than sending emails)

• Keep the keyboard and mouse within your ‘ideal reach zone’

The OCEE Ergonomics website and youtube channel have a great selection of videos to help you. Wish you all the best for 2017!

DSE Training & Assessments Ergonomics Training Meet the Experts Videos