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Ergonomics deals with the design of the workplace to maximise productivity by reducing worker discomfort and fatigue. Because physiotherapists are knowledgeable in the areas of anatomy, physiology and psychology, they are well equipped to perform ergonomic consulting in the workplace and the home. We can help you avoid much loss of productivity and money by visiting your work site and making adjustments or recommendations for the layout of equipment and/or furniture. We can also assess your home to ensure your safety and comfort.
A knowledge of anatomy helps us assess the right 'fit' between the worker and the equipment he/she works with and the duties performed. Ergonomics is important to both employer and employee, since both stand to lose or benefit depending on the ergonomics of the environment. Many workplace accidents are the result of improper placement of equipment and also the job not being the right fit for the worker and vice versa. When a mismatch occurs between the demands of a job and the capacity of the worker, musculoskeletal problems can result.
Posture in standing and sitting is a concern of physiotherapy. Chairs and desks that force the worker to hunch over invite neck and back pain and even headaches. The natural curve of the spine should be maintained, with the head balanced over the spine. When you are seated, your feet should rest on the floor, with legs slightly lower than the hips. The body should be straight and the neck upright, not twisted to the side. The arms should be perpendicular to the floor.
Physiology addresses the energy requirements of the body and the impact of work-rate and workload. Cumulative trauma disorders such as carpal tunnel syndrome stem from a person performing repetitive actions in awkward positions and with noticeable force. For example, a typist who is under stress to produce a required amount of work in a given time may, without realising it, put a lot of pressure on the keys and this can compress the median nerve in the hand, leading to carpal tunnel syndrome. If the typist can vary her rate and her workload with other duties such as filing or sorting, this problem may not occur.
The psychology of the workplace cannot be overlooked. In today's high tech world a worker may spend an entire day in front of the computer or working with various machines without any human involvement. This unbroken interaction with automation can lead to a dulling of the senses and 'information overload'. Ergonomic consulting can go a long way to stave off a lot of these workplace hazards.
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