What is "ergonomics? Definition: er. go. nom. ics [ 'url n'ommiks ] The term "ergonomics" is derived from two Greek words: "ergon", meaning work and "nomo i", meaning natural laws. Ergonomists study human capabilities in relationship to work demands. Today, however, the word is used to describe the science of "designing the job to fit the worker, not forcing the worker to fit the job".

Ergonomics covers all aspects of a job, from the physical stresses it places on joints, muscles, nerves, tendons, bones and the like, to environmental factors which can effect hearing, vision, and general comfort and health. Why do some car seats leave you aching after a long journey? When writing a paper your fingers, arm, maybe your hands cramp sometimes aches as well. Maybe some chairs, sofas, or office furniture. Why is it after a long time doing the same task repeatable that only certain muscles ache, or cause numbness, tingling or cramping. Maybe having the above symptoms that one on Monday requires an amount of time to readjust to the work scheme?

Maybe a certain job has immediate symptoms, but come later, and have a greater affect? Sometimes the effect is immediate and other times it takes hours, days, weeks, some come years after the cause of the symptom? The history of ergonomics until recently wasn't fully recognized, a person needed to get used to the job, routine and its quirks. If you didn't someone else would. The days of automobile manufacture was the "bread-winner of the family would just "knuckle-in" and bear with it and go on with life in the factory.

The days to complain was unheard of you were just a pansy "its in your head". Maybe the job was a new one for the worker that just came into the organization and hadn't learned the ropes of factory work. It was hard enough to into the door for a job as it was, also with benefits, along with a well paying job, and then complain was unheard of. I can remember going home from my job at Olds in the 1970's the drive home sometimes was unbearable at times just to hang onto the steering wheel. Then reported back to the same job the following day required to readjust to the sequence of the jobs routine. Someday it was quick to readjust other days I never got back into the zone.

Some jobs required working over your head and car after car for 8+ hrs while working in a pit. The work was hot, smelly, and mainly grueling. Getting ready for the days job was like a knight suiting up for battle. Taping ones gloves the fingers or palm area, arm sleeves so they wouldn't wear though before your relief made it to your job, if it did wear though it meant working bare handed. Then it became really hard to work on top of trying to protect, or mend from the previous injuries of scars, wounds, and calluses. My coworkers even to this day carry the wounds of non-ergonomics.

The cramped hands, limbs, carpal tunnel, disjointed fingers, or lost mobility. Some have had surgeries that corrected or sometimes making matters worse. Some like myself have not seemed treatment or correction. There are times that my hand will "lock" in a cramped position, or a cyst protrudes from under the skin as a bump. When they do occur on my wrist I will do the self-treatment for the relief. That was before ergonomics became of what it is today and the importance of its place and how it applies.

What initiated the need? Company's costs in the area of medical treatment and surgeries were rising. Added medical costs of medical insurance, medical help, and rehab. For auto parts, 40% of injuries were coded as arising from repetitive motion or overexertion, with an additional 11% in the "other" category. Back injuries are the largest single diagnosis in this sector, 22%, and shoulder injuries are 7%. Back and shoulder injuries are almost entirely of ergonomic origin.

In short, injuries preventable by ergonomics programs dominate the disabling injuries in the motor vehicle parts sector, and manufacturing in general. Along with the added expense of lost regular workers on the line with replacements doing their job while absent. The job was not being performed properly and efficiency was lower causing more repairs, lost production, and extra man-hours to build the same car. The old way of doing business is not working in the higher demand of products with the worker doing more than before. One solution was smaller tools assigned to the job that should help. Studies were showing that the higher output was more profitable on paper than the hidden costs or injuries were not apparent.

Technology of tool design was in order make them smaller, lighter that will help make it easier. The use lifts requiring lever, and hand controls that will help too. Appeared that all of the above would make things better for the worker and the bottom line as well. The reality was the opposite the redesign and lighter materials meant the worker had to use a tighter grip on the tool. The use of lifts did help the worker do his job it was the controls of the lift were making things more difficult.

The medical costs weren't going down what happened? By making the tool smaller it required a tighter grip. Even with the lighter tool. What was wrong here, why?

The studies were made to find out what to do. Studies were being preformed what type of injuries was going on here? Was it related to age, gender, and the type of work environment? Outside firms studying similar types of injuries were consulted. The UAW was looking at the membership (the workers) and what a resource they had. First was a job here then whole other departments the workers were asked what would you do to make it better?

A new plant was being built in spring Hill Tennessee "Saturn" and the workers were involved in the first joint effort of a solution to ergonomics. What is an "ergonomics injury"? The terminology "ergonomics injury" is unconventional. Work-related Musculoskeletal disorder is a more common appropriate term.

Nevertheless, this term has the attraction of codifying shop-floor language. To autoworkers, an "ergonomics injury" is an injury, which would have been prevented by an ergonomics program. Thus, an injury would have been prevented by reduction in risk factors such as forceful exertions, non-neutral joint postures, repetitiveness, mechanical stress concentration, static postures, vibration, cold or heat is an "ergonomics injury". Any strain, sprain, or other soft tissue injury or condition not associated with an acute traumatic event such as a slip, trip, fall or blow is an "ergonomics injury". Most strain or sprain injuries, especially back pain, are acute flare-ups of chronic conditions. Even acute flare-ups apparently triggered by a specific event, such as a lift or bend, are "ergonomic injuries".

A specific diagnosis is not necessary to conclude an injury is due to repetitive motion or overexertion. As a practical matter, occupational medical practice rarely makes a precise or rigorous diagnosis. Most commonly, we are concerned with the inflammation of connective tissue following exertion of muscle-generated force against that tissue. Pain or numbness associated with such conditions arises when inflamed tissues impinge on nerves. In this regard, ergonomic injuries can arise without external loading, since body parts themselves have weight.

Muscle strains, including the aches and pains associated with a new job assignment, or localized muscle fatigue are good predictors of eventual greater damage because the former conditions are indicators that excessive force is being exerted on connective tissue somewhere. What was done? Ergonomics or the Ergonomists is concerned with reduction of one or more of the following risk factors: Awkward Posture: If a job task looks uncomfortable, it probably is and this increases the chances for injury. Whenever possible, strive to arrange the work environment or work processes to allow employees to work from comfortable, neutral posture.

Excessive bending, reaching, awkward neck, back, and arm positions should be eliminated. High Repetition: Repetition can be controlled by using equipment to reduce repetition, allowing employees to rotate tasks, assuring adequate staffing, and ensuring employees take regular breaks away from highly repetitive tasks. Excessive Force: The need to exert excessive force should be controlled through use of proper equipment, assuring equipment is operating properly, and getting adequate help when needed. Contact Stresses: Contact with sharp, abrupt edges whether from a fixed piece of furniture or from a tool should be avoided. Vibration: Vibration can be reduced at the source through tool or equipment selection or by padding the body against vibration, e.g. padded gloves.

Design jobs to fit people: We can see an ergonomic engineer would be concerned with issues of health and safety. The goal of ergonomics is to design jobs to fit people. Something is ergonomically design, if its optimized to fit people. This means taking account of differences such as size, strength and ability to handle information for a wide range of users. Then the tasks, the workplace and tools are designed around these differences. The benefits are improved efficiency, quality and job satisfaction.

The costs of failure include increased error rates and physical fatigue - or worse. The responses were higher working heights or lower working heights. Raise or lower the job to the worker, not the worker raising or lowering to the job. It was easier during early plant construction to have a level line. The use of the same work table in the whole plant.

The overhead conveyor system was better to have at one level it was the way it worked. Saturn workers incorporated the above to each workstation and some stations allowed for adjustments during shift change to the worker. The early attempts were crude but very effective and working. The additional cost was offset very quickly in production and quality improvements Word spread very quickly to other automobile divisions, plants, and other businesses. The workstations were modified at the old plants. Platforms for a job were installed raising the worker to the job.

Some areas were catwalks were installed with the ability to work on an elevated vehicle while someone below was also working not using the "pits" anymore. Other businesses adopted their own adaptation to ergonomics as well from the lessons learned by the auto industry. What is the company's doing today? Utilizing company resources associated with the company and the job in the plants.

Within a few blocks from here in Lansing ergonomics a "global showplace" The LGR Lansing Grand River plant. The centerpiece of ergonomics as "one" of it's many highlights. Has movable and risible skillets, that fit to the worker that performs the task. The worktables are tilted and also raise or lower to the worker. Large bins of parts tilt forward making it easier for the worker to retrieve the part for installation. The tools are angled allowing for ease of torquing the part, not torquing the worker.

Fixtures with adjustments to allow fitting the task, and worker as one. The plant was a conglomeration of plants around the world using the best of the best. Management and union as a joint task group took the assignment gather information back to Lansing for LGR. While maintaining a higher quality, higher output with minimal worker stain or discomfort while doing their job. Outside vendors also got in the design for their plants and all parties reaped the benefits. The old way of doing line work has evolved today into a worker friendly and ergonomic workplace.

In summary: The days of it being called a "pansy" has evolved into a change needs to be made to make it work better for everyone. From the line worker having less medical problems also the ability to the job better the first time. To the company having a better work environment, less repair without added hidden costs. That shooting screws eight hours a day or more on the assembly line doesn't cause carpal tunnel syndrome, and that the pain and suffering of workers was psychological.

Now they are in charge of the process. Below is copied from "UAW online" UAW on Ergonomics Statement of UAW President Stephen P. YokichRe: Hearings on OSHA's Proposed Standard for Workplace Ergonomics Programs American workers need a strong rule on ergonomics in the workplace, and we " re pleased that OSHA is moving forward today with the rule-making process. Members of our union will present testimony during these hearings based on their real-life experiences. We will encourage the agency to improve its proposal, so that it offers comprehensive protection from preventable injuries. This much-needed ergonomics standard has already been delayed far too long by unfounded, self-interested opposition on the part of employers.

The science on this subject couldn't be more clear, and the need couldn't be more pressing: 600,000 workers each year are hurt due to faulty ergonomics, costing U.S. companies billions in medical costs and lost productivity. In the auto and auto parts industries alone, we " ve achieved a 25% reduction in injuries since 1994, largely because we have worked with employers to implement effective ergonomics programs. Unfortunately, many employers -- especially non-union employers -- still refuse to take action, and others need to do more. That's why we need a strong, comprehensive national standard. That's what we will be advocating for during these OSHA hearings in Washington, Chicago and Portland. UAW members assemble vehicles and make parts for the Big 3 auto makers, and also produce 18-wheelers, construction equipment, locomotives and the Space Shuttle.

Their employers are industrial giants. We also represent nearly 300,000 employees of 1500 private and public employers in 2800 bargaining units whose average size is 100. In addition, our units include warehouses, schools, cafeteria workers, health care and social service agencies. These statistics demonstrate the depth and range of the UAW's experience with ergonomics programs in both manufacturing and non-manufacturing sectors. The UAW's extensive experience with ergonomics programs answers the questions: Is an OSHA ergonomics standard needed? Is there sound science to support an ergonomics standard?

Is an ergonomics standard consistent with industry practice? Is an ergonomics standard feasible? Is an ergonomics standard applicable and feasible in all sectors of the economy? The answer to each of these questions is a resounding "yes". The actions such a standard would require are not only feasible, they are already commonplace in hundreds of UAW-represented workplaces. The UAW strongly supported OSHA's ergonomics program standard as a modest, but critical, first step toward abating the largest single cause of injury and disability among American workers generally, and UAW members in particular.

The OSHA rulemaking provided an oasis of science amid a desert of lobbying and sound bites. Then, the logic of power overwhelmed the power of logic, and the rule in place was repealed. We are here to argue that the Bush Administration, having eliminated the protections afforded by the ergonomics standard, should mandate that OSHA issue another enforceable ergonomics standard regulation by a time certain. The purpose of federal standards is to codify the practices of industry leaders so that industry followers can adopt those practices while exposing industry laggards and outlaws for what they are. There are literally thousands of consensus safety standards, set by industry to regulate itself.

The large majority of OSHA standards are actually outdated, 1970's vintage consensus standards. OSHA standards, adopted through an open, evidence-rich process, may stretch the industry leaders, but they are particularly hated by the laggards because management has to comply, rather than merely being invited to comply. Credits:.