What is Ergonomics? It is the science and study of "work": fitting the task to the worker. Designing and arranging things so that people can use them and do their tasks safely. Learning how to work smart will help keep you from having the kinds of physical injuries that can happen over time with conditions like overuse, excessive force and repetition.
Your body is like a tool that you use in the shop - care for it and use it wisely and it will last a long time. Put too much strain on it and damage will result.
Ergonomics became popular during and after World War II when too many pilots crashed planes because they hit the wrong controls and became tired and uncomfortable sitting in cockpits that did not fit them very well.
Scientists discovered that by designing the cockpit to fit the pilots better and putting the controls in more convenient locations there were fewer plane crashes. Nowdays ergonomics applies to all kinds of work, trying to make it safer and less stressful on the body.
Why is ergonomics important in a wood shop or the building trades?
Because you will be spending a lot of time working with tools and equipment that can be hard on your body. Having an understanding of the risks to your body will help you avoid getting serious injuries to your back, arms, hands and legs - injuries that are common in this type of work.
There are six risk factors - conditions that can increase your chance of getting injured -
that you need to be aware of:
1. Vibrating tools or machines.
Holding tools such as sanders or chainsaws that vibrate, or sitting in trucks or other kinds of equipment that vibrate, such as forklifts.
2. Repetitive movements.
Repeating similar movements with the same muscles for long periods of time, like hammering, sawing, or using a screwdriver.
3. Excessive force.
Lifting, pressing, gripping, pinching, pulling or pushing more than you can handle.
4. Awkward postures.
Bending, twisting, or extending your back, neck, shoulder, wrist, or knees. Roofing is an example of a job that often requires this kind of awkward posturing.
5. Contact stress.
When the pressure or jolt from a tool or machine creates a concentrated force on the body. Like kneeling, pounding with your bare hand, resting your forearm on the edge of a table, or having the handle of a screwdriver digging into the palm of your hand.
6. Temperature extremes.
When a worker has to work in very hot or very cold temperatures. Both conditions can make your muscles get tired sooner.