How do you feel after a long day on the job? If you work in a factory, shipping facility, or on a construction site, you’re probably exhausted. But what if you work in an office? Do you feel spry and energetic when five o’clock rolls around? Probably not. That’s why workplace ergonomics improvement is important no matter where you clock in.
Ergonomics is the art and science of designing spaces to fit the people who use them. Because we spend so much time at work, ergonomics experts often focus specifically on workspaces. Whether you have an office job or perform manual labor, ergonomics can help you design a station that maximizes your comfort and productivity while helping you avoid injuries.
At Hand in Hand Rehabilitation, our occupational therapists can help you improve your workspace ergonomics. One thing we specialize in is helping you protect your upper extremities and, specifically, your hands and wrists. Many jobs require extensive hand use, whether typing or using hand tools. We’ll help you with best practices to protect your upper extremities.
Why Worry About Workplace Ergonomics Improvement?
Work can be hard on the human body. Many jobs prevent us from moving around naturally and require us to perform repetitive motions that can cause overuse injuries.
Office workers fall victim to prolonged sedentary periods. And while manual labor is more active, it can also confine workers to a single location or movement. Or it can require them to lift and move heavy objects, increasing their risk of injury.
Your hands, wrists, and upper extremities can also suffer while working. Carpal tunnel syndrome is one of the more common workplace injuries. It occurs when the median nerve, which runs through the wrist and into the hand, becomes compressed, leading to pain, tingling, and weakness.
While we often associate carpal tunnel syndrome with office workers, it’s just as likely–if not more likely–to affect people doing manual work, such as construction workers, landscapers, or assembly line workers.
But carpal tunnel syndrome isn’t the only hand or wrist injury you might sustain at work. The repetitive nature of many work tasks can lead to various overuse injuries. Your hands have over 100 different tendons and ligaments, and if that soft tissue becomes stretched or torn due to overuse, you’ll experience pain and limited range of motion. Typing, repetitive reaching or grasping motions, and tool use can all cause issues.
Finally, manual laborers, in particular, are at risk for more dramatic hand and wrist injuries, such as fractures, lacerations, or amputations. Good ergonomic design can increase workplace safety and help decrease the chances of workers suffering major injuries.
The Role of Occupational Therapy in Workplace Ergonomics Improvement
Workplace ergonomics improvement at Hand in Hand Rehabilitation aims to make your workspace safer and more comfortable, no matter the type of work you’re doing. And because our occupational therapists are experts in the biomechanics of the hands and wrists, we have a keen understanding of which adjustments will provide the best improvements.
One of the most significant ways our therapists address workplace ergonomics improvement is through an ergonomic assessment. We can evaluate a workspace and individual workstations based on how well it meets current ergonomic principles.
For office workers, we’ll usually focus on workstation and computer setup, especially the keyboard and mouse arrangement. Here are a few tips to consider:
- Your elbows should be at a 90-degree angle or greater to maximize blood flow and ensure your wrists are in a neutral position.
- Keep your mouse close to your keyboard to avoid awkward shoulder movements.
- If your chair has armrests, they should let your arm rest naturally at your sides. Add padding if necessary.
For manual laborers, we’ll evaluate overall workspaces for general safety concerns and provide suggestions for modifications or work aids that can help prevent injury. We can give in-depth safety training to ensure you and your coworkers are not increasing your chances of sustaining a significant hand or wrist injury.
We’ll also help create an environment where workers can share any symptoms or other concerns before they become an issue. If you’re an assembly line worker dealing with elbow pain, for example, you should be able to alert a manager to have the condition managed before it becomes more serious.
One Last Tip for Workplace Ergonomics Improvement
Everyone should keep one ergonomics consideration in mind, no matter where they work. And that’s the importance of taking breaks.
Because the vast majority of workplace injuries are overuse injuries, one of the most significant workplace ergonomics improvements is finding ways to avoid that overuse. For office workers, this usually means getting up from your desk and moving around. Performing hand and wrist stretches can also help counteract the movement of typing.
For assembly line workers, it’s essential to step away from the line. Walking across the factory floor will get you moving more naturally, and stretching out your hands and wrists is vital if you perform many small hand movements (like grasping or reaching).
Manual laborers should also take time to warm up before starting their day. Our occupational therapists can show you simple warm-up exercises that will prepare your body for work!
Call Us To Find Out More About Our Ergonomics Programs!
Whether you’re a worker looking to avoid injuries or a manager who wants to protect their employees, the occupational therapists at Hand in Hand Rehabilitation can help you optimize your workplace ergonomics!
Schedule an appointment today to get started.