BACKGROUND: Brian Kleiner of Virginia Tech works with constructions crews in the television industry, which requires rapid building projects. The science of ergonomics can help reduce the risk of injury on a construction: a back or neck injury sustained while lifting heavy objects, or repetitive stress injuries, the most common of which is carpal tunnel syndrome.
WHAT IS ERGONOMICS? This is a branch of science that strives to design the job to fit the worker, rather than the other way around. In the modern office, it most commonly relates to the physical stresses placed on joints, muscles, nerves, tendons, bones, even hearing and eyesight, along with other environmental factors that can adversely affect comfort and health. Ergonomics deals with the interaction of technology and work environments with the human body, and involves such things as anatomy, physiology, and psychology in the design of chairs, desks, computer accessories, the design of car controls and instruments ý in short, any kind of product that could help relieve potential repetitive strain from a given job or task.
OY! MY ACHING BACK: The back is made up of four major parts. The spine, nerves, muscles, and the spinal cord. There are thirty-three bones in the spine and thirty-one pairs of nerves branching out from the spinal cord. All of them must work together. If they don't, you could end up with anything from a strain to a ruptured disk, fractured vertebrae, and/or a debilitating disease like arthritis. Back injuries can be painful, disabling, paralyzing, and sometimes even fatal. To help prevent a back injury you should exercise, practice good posture, eat the right foods, and watch your weight. Check with your doctor for muscle strengthening exercises for the back. Other things you can do to prevent back injuries include using work-saving devices -- hand trucks, forklifts, wheelbarrows, and dollies can assist you. When you have an object to lift that is too heavy or bulky get help! Ask a co-worker for their assistance. Remember, two backs are stronger than one.' Check out the object to be lifted. Think about how you are going to grasp the load and make sure there is a clear path of travel so you won't stumble. Before you lift, stand close to the object, bend down at the knees and straddle it, get a good grip, and lift with your legs while keeping your back straight. The secret is to let your legs do the work. Remember: It doesn't have to be a heavy load -- even a small, very light object lifted incorrectly can trigger a back injury.
OTHER SAFETY TIPS:
Inspect electrical and hand tools before use.
When it's heavy get some help. Don't be a hurt hero.
Never smoke around flammables.
Watch out for pinch points and sharp edges. Keep your work area neat and clean.
Avoid horseplay -- someone always gets hurt.
Wear personal protective gear properly and whenever required.
Check the label and read the manufacturer's instructions before use.
Ask questions whenever you're in doubt.
The Human Factors and Ergonomics Society contributed to the information contained in the TV portion of this report.