Injury Prevention and Ergonomic Strategies for the Workplace
Written by Marilyn Federico, MA, OTR, CHT at Atlantic Health Systems
Our arms explore the world, reaching away from our bodies to manipulate objects in our environment. Our hands are the tools we use to care for ourselves and to engage with our world in work and play.
We often take for granted how essential our arms and hands are in allowing us to take command of our daily activities. As such, when there is a breakdown in how our bodies are able to interact with the world, whether through illness or injury, it is usually only then that we realize how miraculous our whole body system works together to allow us to accomplish our daily tasks.
Prevention of injury is a key component in maintaining a high quality of symptom-free function. The science of using good body mechanics and ergonomic principles is essential to sustaining our independence in the world.
Using good body mechanics and ergonomic injury prevention strategies is a common sense approach to doing more with less pain and discomfort. So, consider the following guidelines in order to reap the benefits of ergonomics. . .
Ergonomics and Injury Prevention Starts With Posture
Maintain good back and neck posture – Sit up straight pulling shoulders down and back while avoiding head from pushing forward.
Take Breaks, Especially to Reap the Benefits of Ergonomics in the Workplace
Take a 30 second break every 30 minutes from repetitive overhead reaching, resisted forearm rotation or extended periods of repetitive hand or wrist movements. In order to enjoy the benefits of ergonomics in the workplace, this could be as simple as setting a timed screensaver on the laptop or cell phone to remind you to stretch!
Opt for Power Tools
Use power tools to avoid repetitive strain caused by manual forces of gripping or twisting.
Prevent Injury Through Ergonomics By Switching Up Your Position
Avoid static positions that involve unusual body positions such as a tight, sustained grip.
Use Gloves When Handling Vibrating Tools
Wear vibration reducing gel gloves when using power tools that vibrate (landscaping machines, jack hammer, table saws)
The Benefits of Good Ergonomics From Furniture
Using supportive chairs that allow good foot support on the floor that can adjust to the appropriate height for stationary keyboards. With this, as you adjust your seating and reap the benefits of ergonomics, make sure that you’re set up so that typing allows elbows to maintain a 90 degree angle while computer screens are at eye level.
Wear Gardening Gloves and Seek Out Rubber Handles
Consider the use of padded gloves or rubberized handles for gardening tools to improve grip. Enlarged handles are a simple advantage of ergonomics that decrease demand on tight fisting of small hand joints.
Make the Most of Ergonomics and Injury Prevention With Physical Therapy
If you’re looking for even more ways to explore the advantages of ergonomics, you can book an appointment with an occupational therapist at Atlantic Health Systems or with another clinic in your area through the BetterPT website or mobile app. They can guide you through exercises and prescribe a personalized treatment plan that helps you reduce any current discomfort and prevent future injuries. Combined with the strategies above, a PT/OT can help you enjoy all of the benefits of good ergonomics. Book your appointment today!
Marilyn B. Federico MA, OTR is an occupational therapist in Cranford, NJ with over 23 years of experience.