By designing work based on “internal productivity” (i.e., not overburdening or fatiguing the employee, allowing them to produce more output with less effort), waterfront employers can optimize the efficiency and quality of their processes while minimizing the risk of costly workplace injuries to the back, shoulders, arms, and knees.
When reviewing a job with “ergonomic eyes”, we should ask ourselves, “Would I perform the task this way?” By looking for ergonomic risk factors (known as conducting a risk assessment), we can identify ways to improve jobs and reduce risk of injury.
There are five main ergonomic risk factors to consider when evaluating a job.
- Awkward or static work postures such as bending, reaching or twisting with the neck, back, arms or legs. Awkward positions put the muscles and tendons at mechanical disadvantages, making them weaker. Static or stationary positions rob the muscles of needed oxygen resulting in fatigue. Static positions require more recovery than dynamic motions.
- Forceful exertions such as lifting, carrying, pushing, pulling or gripping may overload muscles and increase fatigue.
- Vibration to the hands and arms from grinders, sanders, needle guns, chipping hammers, impact wrenches or chainsaws can slowly rob the body of much-needed blood flow and result in injury to the blood vessels, nerves or muscles.
- Repetitive motions of the wrists, arms, back, neck or knees occur from repeating the same motion repeatedly at a fast pace with little variation in the task. Frequent repetitive motions slowly fatigue the muscles and decrease productivity.
- Contact stress occurs when there is continuous contact or rubbing between hard or sharp objects and surfaces and sensitive body parts such as the fingers, palms, elbows, thighs, knees or feet. The contact creates localized pressure that reduces blood flow, nerve function and movement of tendons and muscles.