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 kinesiology, they are well equipped to perform ergonomic consulting in the workplace and the home. We can help you avoid loss of productivity by visiting your worksite and making adjustments or recommendations for the layout of equipment and furniture. We can also assess your home to ensure your safety and comfort.
Physiotherapists assess the right ‘fit’ between the worker and the equipment he works with and the duties performed. Ergonomics is important to both employer and employee since both will benefit from an optimally functional ergonomic 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 sitting is of particular concern to physiotherapists. 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 aligned with the shoulders rather than a forward head posture. When you are seated, your feet should rest on the floor or a foot-stool, with legs slightly lower than the hips. The body should be straight, with adequate lumbar support provided for the lower back, and the neck upright with eyes looking forward, not with the head twisted to the side. The arms should be perpendicular to the floor with the wrists in a slightly extended position for keyboard use or writing
Physiotherapists also address the energy requirements of the body and the impact of work-rate and workload when performing an ergonomic assessment. Cumulative trauma disorders such as carpal tunnel syndrome most often stem from a person performing repetitive actions in awkward positions or 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, place excess pressure on the keys. The resulting inflammation from the repetitive forceful action may cause compression of the nerves in the wrist leading to carpal tunnel syndrome. If the typist can vary her rate and her workload with other duties instead of constant typing, as well as having an ergonomic work station which ensures correct spinal and upper limb posture is maintained, then this problem may be prevented.