Ergonomics: discuss the contribution that anthropometry makes to our understanding of ergonomic interventions in the workplace?
Ergonomics refers to the science of planning how users interact with their work place and the various equipments they use in order to ensure that they are fitting to the user. Effective ergonomic designs are critical in preventing repetitive strain injuries that can develop gradually over a period of time and have a likelihood of leading to long term disability (Mekhora, Liston, Nanthavanij, & Cole, 2000). An organization should strive to achieve proper health and productivity through workplace interactions and ergonomics is applied to do just so (Mirka, Smith, Shivers & Taylor, 2002). Prevention and intervention strategies can be used in the workplace to reduce the occurrences and the effects of illnesses, disorders, and musculoskeletal injuries (Ernoglu, Kayacan, Yilmaz, 2015). Anthropometry is one of the disciplines that greatly help in the understanding of ergonomic interventions. Hence this paper undertakes to explore the contribution that the discipline of anthropometry makes to the understanding of workplace ergonomic interventions.
Intervention can be either primary or secondary. Primary intervention means that action is taken before the conditions of harm have been acquired by the members of the population that is at risk (Achim, 2014). This can include, for example, such things as educational programs to minimize new incidences of low back pain, muscle pains, and so on (Widyati, Susanti, Sutalaksana, & Muslim, 2015). Secondary intervention, on the other hand, takes place when preventive actions are taken after the members who at risk have experience the health conditions of concern. This may include, for example, introduction of job redesigning for workers who have shown early symptoms of musculoskeletal disorders (Hughes & Nelson, 2009). Intervention can also be tertiary which means that interventions are being undertaken for members who have developed serious crippling conditions.
Applying the principles of ergonomics constitutes the basis for the larger degree of intervention literature. It advances workplace interventions that help in establishing a fit among the worker, the environment, the job, and the work equipments (Hughes & Nelson, 2009). Professionals in ergonomics, both practitioners and researchers, reflect many factors that impact on safety and productivity in work environment. Scientific methods are adhered to in the application of ergonomics; this include gathering data and analyzing it such as through surveillance and job analysis, development of hypotheses in addressing specific conditions or factors, proposals for administration controls to address various organizational characteristics, testing of hypotheses, and maintenance and refining of the hypotheses ((Geff, Ensor, Kleinbaum, Cohen, & Edwards, 2002)).
Anthropometry and its role in understanding ergonomic interventions
One major feature of ergonomics is that it is highly interdisciplinary because it is based on diverse areas of knowledge. Anthropometry, however, has a unique importance owing to the emergence composite work systems where adequate and accurate knowledge of man’s physical dimensions is important (Hughes & Nelson, 2009). Anthropometric measurements can be applied in developing a suitable working space design as well as the development of industrialized products such as tools, cars, furnishings, and so on. With the ongoing technological advances, there will be an increase in the automation and precision of measurement techniques. This will enhance the workspaces mechanics, the human size definition, and equipment and clothing.
Anthropometry refers to the scientific techniques of studying the proportions and the measurements of the human body. Human variation is a complex issue to study and the approaches used have been subject to debates for many years. Despite its usefulness in ergonomic studies, it is quite complex and should be addressed with care. Biological anthropology history shows that pursuing a simplistic approach can have detrimental outcomes and ergonomist need to be wary lest they repeat the same mistakes (Geff, Ensor, Kleinbaum, Cohen, & Edwards, 2002). By carefully studying the variations the workspace design can be developed in a manner that suits the members using it and this can help in minimizing the risks of physical injuries to workers while also contributing to better output from the members (Rosenstock, Cullen, Brodkin, & Redlich, 2005). A well designed tool will have a better performance in a worker’s hand with better productivity and no injuries to the body structures of the worker. Anthropometric data, on the other hand, can only be of substance if the workers’ activities are also assessed and analyzed.
Musculoskeletal disorders are recognized for being among the most prevalent workplace occupational disorders in a significant diversity of jobs (Geff, Ensor, Kleinbaum, Cohen, & Edwards, 2002). Similarly, substantial evidence exists pointing that awkward posture, repetition, force and contact stress are the main factors leading to these cases (Rosenstock, Cullen, Brodkin, & Redlich, 2005). If an individual repeatedly seats on a chair that puts strain on his/her back, the repeated contact stress may lead to pains and possibly deformation of body structures in the long term. In addition, work-related musculoskeletal disorders are known to be top causes of disability and work absenteeism.
Today, office work entailing extensive use of computer is a job with a large number of WMSDs. There is a routine use of computers, as well as its accessories, among office workers. This equipment use is a source of diverse ergonomic risk factors, with the most common being that of awkward postures. Therefore, complaints due to musculoskeletal issues in different body parts, especially, hand, neck, wrist, shoulder, are common in diverse occupational groups. Some studies have implicated the use of video display terminal (VDT) as having an important influence in the prevalence of WSMDs incidences (Mirmohammadi, Mehrparvar, Olia, & Mirmohammadi, 2012). Use of anthropometric data can provide important solutions to WSMDs due to contact stress and awkward posture. Through designing of workstations that are informed by scientific body measurements of the users can greatly help in remedying the existing cases and preventing future occurrences.
According to Nadadur and Parkinson (2013), understanding ergonomics and human factors facilitates in the design and development tasks, environments, and tasks that fulfill the both the physical and the cognitive requirements of the users. Studies in these two interrelated field promotes the goal of resourcefully accommodating the ideal percentage of users in the populations that may be at risk, by way enhancing awareness and putting human variability in the model. Anthropometric data facilitates the Design for Sustainability (DfS) which allows for the ergonomics concepts to be leveraged in the wider context work space designing in order toi minimize negative impacts. Relevant to DfS, anthropometry synthesis, ergonomics can substantially benefit from virtual adjustability allocation, sizing, and virtual fitting in the designing of workstations that minimize health hazards.
The focus of ergonomics is on ensuring that the workplace is safe, efficient, and comfortable, as much as possible. Effective use of ergonomics in a work system can attain balance between the task demands and worker characteristics. According to Garbie (2012), the use of anthropometric techniques can help in realization of this, and therefore help in enhancing worker safety, mental and physical well being of the users, job satisfaction and the productivity of the workers (Sagot & Gomez, 2003). The main concerns related to work systems is usually achieving improvement in tools and machines. In addition, work system designs are given little or no consideration at all meaning that poorly designed systems are very common in the industry. A workplace that is ergonomically deficient can cause emotional and physical stress, poor work quality, and low productivity, and job dissatisfaction (Hughes & Nelson, 2009). A workstation needs to be designed in such a manner that the working area is minimized so that the worker can apply shorter motions, use less energy, and reduce fatigue while carrying out his/her operations. Workspace design can be improved through the use of anthropometric data that takes into consideration the physical measurements of proportions of the potential users of the environment.
Ergonomics help in ensuring that the work environment is safe and comfortable for workers in order to minimize conditions such as WMSDs and many other conditions. It is also a way of ensuring that workers have better quality work and productivity. Ergonomics is interdisciplinary and anthropometry is one of the disciplines in which it finds a lot of relevance. Through application of anthropometric data, organizations can design work environments that suit the users and minimize such things as contact stress and awkward posture. Anthropometry, therefore substantially helps in understanding ergonomic interventions in the workplace.
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