Ergonomics is a study of human factors which aims to learn about human abilities and limitations. It is a branch of science that helps in identifying application of psychological principles to design and process products for human which can improve their comfort and efficiency. There are various types of ergonomics but in this project report, organisational ergonomics is studied in order to ascertain the applications of the concept. An understanding is build about benefits of this concept and its usefulness to bring effectiveness and efficiency in employees due to workplace environment. In order to recommend ways and techniques of effective ergonomics application in an organisation, a real life organisation is used that Wesfarmers Limited. This company is an Australian large scale company which is engaged in manufacturing and processing industry. Using Wesfarmers as an example, various scope, objectives and limitations are discussed along with relevant legislations, standards, codes of practice and benchmarks (Jasiulewicz-Kaczmare and DroÃ…Â¼yner, 2013).
Understanding about essential principles of ergonomics with relevant examples
According to OSHA, Ergonomics is that branch of science which deals with postures of human body due to which interaction and communication in a business organisation is affected. There are various applications to this study which are mentioned below:
Maintain neutral postures Neutral postures are referred to the human body postures which are aligned and balanced. These postures applies to both sitting and standing position. By aligning all joints, it is considered that stress can be minimised. Aligned and balanced postures can reduce the physical stress on muscles, nerves and bones. For example: Management of Wesfarmers must provide workplace conditions and equipment such as chairs which can allow employees to maintain an aligned posture. Awkward postures results in stress on musculoskeletal system which can lead towards risk factors of musculoskeletal disorders. These disorders can reduce working ability of an employee and will ultimately effect productivity of the business firm.
Comfort Zone This principle is similar to maintaining a balanced posture. This principle states that if an employee is able to work in its comfort zone then there are major chances of innovation and efficiency. Scientifically stating, comfort zone is the power zone of a human body which is considered to be close between mi-thigh and mid chest height. It is considered that this zone is where the arms and back can lift the most with the least amount of effort. For example: If the employees of Wesfarmers are working in their comfort zones that you working from proper heights and reaches, it can reduce MSD risk.
Movement and stretching This principle is based on the fundamental system of human muscles referred as musculoskeletal system. This system is also known as movement system of human body which allows them to move. Working for long hours in a static position can cause intense fatigue which reduces working ability of employees. For example: Wesfarmers must allow their employees to move. Working for long hours results in static load, this load can be a resultant from activities like stand for straight eight hours, write with a pencil for continuous sixty minutes and many more.
Reduce excessive force Another principle of ergonomics is reducing excessive force. This force can be physical as well as mental. Excessive force is one of the major risk factor of ergonomic that is why reducing this force is considered as a most important principle. There are several working conditions which trigger force and in order to eliminate these forces it is important to maintain a balance. For example: Wesfarmers should adjust work station for employees in a way that they must fit to employees height. Working tools must have powered equipment and ergonomic tools which reduces muscle exertions.
Reduce excessive motions It is important to study the concept of ergonomics and its principles as it builds an understanding about proper amount of physical stress which can be levied on the employees that will not impact productivity and profitability. It is important to allow employees to move but even excessive motion can result in inefficiency. For example: There are various tasks which are repetitive in nature and in order to reduce stress, management of Wesfarmers should provide breaks to their employees.
Minimise stress Whether physical or mental, stress should be reduced or minimised in an organisation. According to OHS that is Work health and safety organisation, contact stress results from continuous contact with hard surfaces.
Adequate vision and lightning Poor lightning is the major issue faced by number of organisations these days. This ergonomic principle is concerned with providing adequate amount of lightning to employees. Excessive or dim light can affect vision of employees which can be major hazard for employee safety.
Detailed understanding for ergonomic assessment
Ergonomic assessment is a process in which an organisation is assessed in order to identify whether the workplace premises are accurately equipped or not. There are various methods and tools by which, ergonomic assessment can be conducted. There are various factors which can affect this assessment process such as organisation, workplace and workforce. These methods of ergonomic assessment along with its factors are discussed below:
Methods of ergonomic assessment There are various methods or techniques by which it can be determined whether a workplace is suitably equipped for employees or not. The main aim behind conducting this assessment is to ensure that interest of personnel. Methods of this assessment are Rapid Entire Body assessment (REBA) in which health of employees are assessed medically. Another method of ergonomics assessment is Rapid upper limb assessment (RULA) in which upper limbs that is hands are medically check in order to ascertain work load and pressure. Besides these two most important methods, there are few other techniques also such as risk assessment checklist, lifting calculator, lifting equation and many more.
Factors which affect ergonomic assessment:
Nature of organisation Nature of the organisation is a major factor which can influence ergonomic assessment. Nature can be classified as service or production industry as benchmarks for both the industries are different.
Workplace Another factor is workplace, this is the environment and conditions of work premises. While conducting ergonomic assessment, it is important to ascertain work place as it can provide a clear view about stress that is levied on employees.
Work activity Under this factor, Work activities or operations which are performed by employees are analysed. While performing ergonomic assessment it is significant that work which is performed by the employees is assessed. Different work performed by different class if employees has various benchmarks.
Work force This factor is related with the type of employees. Age, gender, height and weight are the factors of work force which influence assessment of ergonomics (Clarke, 2017).
Elements of ergonomic assessment:
Scope Comfort and appropriate working conditions are a right to every employee due to which scope of ergonomic assessment is wider than any other assessment. In various countries such as Australia, government has mentioned several rules regarding ergonomics which are required to be fulfilled. In order to assess these suitable practices of these rules, every large scale organisation is assessed by officers.
Objective The main aim behind conducting this analysis is to protect interest of employees. Government and other regulatory bodies check the adherence of ergonomic practices in organisations.
Limitations There are various demerits of this assessment such as in order to suitably equip working premises, it is important to invest ample of time and money. Another limitation is that in order to train employees about this concept, management has to invest ample of time of their employees due to which productivity and profitability is affected (Gyi, Sang and Haslam, 2013).
Relevant standards and benchmarks Government of a country and its safety regulation boards develops various types of standards and benchmarks which are necessary to be followed by an organisation. Some of the examples of these standards are no employee is allowed to stand continuous eight hours, workstations must be properly equipped with suitable height, lights provided in work premises must be adequate according to benchmarks etc.
Analysis of all important interactions between users and equipment, and other relevant features of workplace
In order to analyse interactions between users that are employees and equipment that are tools of ergonomics, it is important to study their domains. According to International Ergonomics Association, there are two types of interactions between these parties which are mentioned below:
Cognitive This interaction is related with mental processes such as perception, memory, reasoning and responses. These processes affect humans and other elements of a system. Cognitive interaction is the response of employees to equipment which requires their mental attention such as human computers and other technological tools. This kind of interaction influences human reliability, work stress and training.
Physical This interaction is related with characteristics of a human body. In this type of interaction, elements which are necessary to be assessed are anatomical, anthropometric and physiological characteristics of an employee. In a business organisation, ergonomic tools by which interaction of humans is performed are working postures, repetitive movements, musculoskeletal disorders and many more.
In order to identify interaction between users and other relevant features of a workplace such as organisational, it is important to study its domain.
Organisational Organisational ergonomics is concerned with the optimisation of sociotechnical systems including organisational structures, policies and processes. In this type of domain human or employee response to management, work design, team work and other organisational elements (Craig and Campbell, 2012).
Identification of actual and potential ergonomic issues
Human factors such as workforce variation, workplace premises and nature of organisation helps in ascertaining various actual or potential ergonomic issues which are faced by employees in their everyday work life. Some of these issues are discussed below:
Performing similar tasks repetitively Human body is designed for movements due to which performing similar task repetitively can lead towards fatigue and results into low productivity. Same motion or series of motions frequently for an extended period of time is a major issue to ergonomic.
Working in awkward positions for longer periods Another issue which is identified by considering human factors is working in an awkward position. An awkward position can vary from user to user, which can be tolerable for a time period. But working in such type of position can result in muscle contractions and can even lead towards bone damage. For example: If any employee of Wesfarmers is higher than other employees but the workstation is similar to them then there is a possibility that employee can experience issues related to health.
Cold temperatures Working in cold temperatures is also an issue of ergonomic. Inner body and muscles are directly proportional to external temperature due to which it is important to maintain suitable temperatures in working premises. In an organisation, where cold temperature is a necessity then employees must provide breaks during their work hours. For example: Wesfarmers stores numerous of their products in a huge cold storage and there are various workers which are employed to work under that storage should be provided necessary standards.
Vibration This is a situation where employees face vibration in their whole body due to vibration of heavy machineries. This vibration can cause number of health effects. Hand arm vibration can lead to damage small capillaries which are used to supply nutrients. Vibration in whole body can result into increased force exertion. For example: Using hand tools such as drillers can cause excessive vibration.
Combined risk factors This is a case where number of risks factors are combined due to which it result into major ergonomic issue. These combined factors can be shaking of arms or hands along with rolling shoulders and many more.
Excessive force Exerting excessive force to a specific body part can result into ergonomic issue. For example: Lifting heavy weight equipment for a longer period of time can cause excessive force in spinal cord and negatively influence health of the employees (Dul, 2012).
Implications of the identified ergonomic mismatches
Ergonomic mismatch is referred to the situation where furniture in the workplace is mismatched with body physique of employees. This unsuitability of furniture raise various implications. These implications are the causes for ergonomic mismatch. Some of these potential and actual implications are mentioned below which the causes of ergonomic issues:
Secular trends These trends are the classic trends which have no relevance in present but are anyways accepted by our society. In this case, secular trends are applied to furniture used by its users. For example: Wesfarmers is a large scale organisation which has various offices and numerous employees. Furniture in their office premises has high level of arm rest at chairs which logically has no relevance due to which constant arm pain can be caused. Other secular trends can be low level of tables, un adjustable computer monitors and many more.
Expensive furniture Another cause of ergonomic mismatch is expensive furniture. This issue is common in organisation which has low budget for designing office premises. It has considered that employees are the most important assets for the organisation due to which it is important to satisfy them. Whereas now a days organisations follow approaches where they satisfy needs of employees by fulfilling their monetary requirements. It has to be considered that along with financial needs, physical requirements of employees should also be fulfilled (Eldridge and Crombie, 2013).
Recommendations for practical remedial measures
According to OHS Australia, there are various measures which can resolve the ergonomic issues. Some of these solutions for issues are discussed below:
Engineering controls These are the most desirable controls as they result in highest efficiency and adequacy. These controls helps an organisation to control ergonomic issues by using engineering controls such as reposition of heavy objects and limiting force exertion. These control requires resources to be implemented in an organisation due to which it is difficult for small scale organisations to do it. For example: Organisations such as Wesfarmers can use a lift and reposition their heavy objects to limit force exertion. Organisations can reduce the weight of a load to limit force exertion. Work stations or tales can be repositioned to enable neutral postures. Tools which are used o business operations can be installed to direct materials toward the worker (Zink and Fisch