Ergonomics and Musculoskeletal Disorders
Ergonomics is also termed as human engineering. It is a science that relates the relationship between the work
and the worker. In its most simple terms, management should ensure that work station should be placed at its most
appropriate level so that the worker does not harm his body due to his work activities. Such harms can lead to pains on his
back, upper limbs and even on the neck resulting in high discomfort to perform in the long run. Often this leads to
musculoskeletal disorder syndrome which affects the productivity of individuals. Musculoskeletal Disorders or MSD affects
the back, neck, shoulder, elbow, hands, wrists and fingers on the external body whereas it also affects the nerves, tendons,
ligaments, cartilages and muscles internally. MSD can affect anyone who is exposed to repetitive works at their work
locations. Thus Work Related Musculoskeletal Disorders reduces performance capabilities of the workers often resulting in
severe pains and poor product supply and quality.
Until a few years ago, many activities at project worksites were carried out by manual handling. Mechanization started
playing a major role in projects from around 1980s. But still all activities cannot be handled using mechanical devices and
manual repetitive actions are still a cause of concerns to the workforce as well as management. Manual handling accounted
for nearly 40-45% worksite accidents which forced the corporate as well as Health and Safety Executives to undertake a
deep analysis on how to reduce such incidents and pains. Such analysis led to a broader understanding of various types of
manual handling activities and hazards involved in such activities. Then a comprehensive risk analysis is prepared and
protective measures suggested which includes both mechanical controls as well as administrative controls.
Manual handling activities should only be considered when no other means can be applied along with hazards identification
and risk profiling. Even if manual handling activities are being replaced with mechanical lifting devices, still it poses
different hazards and needs a proper study on control of those hazards. Risk control measures are based on four factors, viz.
task, individual, load and environment. All these are vital elements which affect the upper limbs through repetitive
movements and actions.
In order to bring manual handling risks under control, training shall be provided to all workers who are engaged for such
works on safe handling techniques as well as subject the workers to medical surveillance periodically to monitor health of
workers. Such proactive monitoring means can reduce pain and sufferings for those workers and also boost employee morale
leading to increased productivity and credibility. Such actions from the management also will bring down accident rates
which in turn will also reduce direct and indirect costs on the corporate.
It is also worth to note that by introducing mechanical means of lifting or shifting in lieu of manual handling means,
organizations have to ensure good engineering practices like conveyors or lifting equipments like hoists or cranes which also
pose hazards. More than these hazards, organizations have to spend additional cost to counter manual handling risks which
many offices are reluctant to go for. These considerations along with providing training for people and maintenance
requirements may not have been included in their budget. It is also a fact that projects may be located at far away locations
and hence the utility factors of such types of mechanical appliances installed at one location may not cater to either in
existing or other future projects too.
Keywords - Ergonomics, Musculoskeletal Disorder, Manual Handling, Risk Controls