Examples Of Ergonomics “Engineering Controls”
Ergonomics is a science that applies to the design of products, tools, and workplaces. Its main goal is to minimize fatigue, discomfort, risk of injury, and other potential health problems by aligning work with an individual’s capabilities. A significant component of ergonomics is engineering controls — which focus on physically changing products and environments to make them more suitable for human use. But what exactly are “engineering controls”? This blog post will define engineering controls in ergonomics and provide examples at the workplace and home level so you can improve your comfort while working or relaxing. So read on if you’re interested in understanding what these necessary processes involved!
Engineering Controls in Ergonomics Definition
Engineering controls are changes to the environment or product that reduce or eliminate the risks associated with a task. These modifications can come in many forms, from simple adjustments like providing a footrest for someone who needs to sit all day to more sophisticated design features such as adjustable chairs and keyboards for those who need to type for extended periods.
In a workplace setting, engineering controls can also involve rearranging furniture or equipment to ensure the optimal positioning of work areas relative to one another. This encourages good posture and reduces strain on muscles, tendons, joints, and other body parts prone to repetitive stress injury (RSI).
For home use, engineering controls might involve purchasing new furniture or equipment to best suit the individual’s needs. A laptop stands for someone who works from home; for example, it can provide a more comfortable viewing angle and reduce strain on their neck and shoulders. Alternatively, if you have an old chair that’s giving you back pain while you work, investing in a more ergonomic model might help alleviate the problem.
Since the science of ergonomics involves designing the job to fit the worker, let’s look at engineering controls that improve the design of tools, equipment, and the work area to mitigate hazards.
Engineering improvements include rearranging, modifying, redesigning, or replacing tools, equipment, workstations, packaging, parts, or products. These design changes can reduce or eliminate the underlying hazards that cause injuries.
Below are a few examples of how simple engineering controls can be used to reduce ergonomic injuries:
- Use a device such as a dolly, forklift, or crane to reposition heavy objects to limit force exertion.
- Reduce the weight of a load such as lumber to limit force exertion.
- Reposition a work table to eliminate a long/excessive reach and work using awkward postures.
- Use staple guns or roofing nailers instead of hammers to shingle a roof.
- Use circular saws instead of handsaws to cut lumber.
- Use augers instead of post-hole diggers or shovels to dig holes.
Engineering Control Improvement Options
- Raise or lower the work surface or the employee. This reduces bending, reaching, and awkward postures. A rule of thumb is to keep your hands at about elbow height when working.
- Use cut-out work surfaces to get closer to work. This reduces visual effort and awkward postures.
- Reposition the work to reduce bending and reaching.
- Reconfigure the workstation so that sliding and rolling replace lifting and carrying.
- Use adjustable equipment that allows for a comfortable, upright working posture.
- Provide close, convenient storage for frequently used materials, parts, or tools to reduce reaching and awkward postures.
- Provide comfort – footrests, padding, and good lighting make work more comfortable.
- Use lifting aids to reduce force, repetition, and awkward postures in lifting or handling tasks. Assistive devices include vacuum lifts, manipulators, mechanical lifts, workstation cranes, scissors lifts, and automatic feed systems.
- Using mechanical aids reduce force, repetition, and awkward postures in transporting materials and products around the workplace. Examples include adjustable carts, conveyors, and powered transport for longer distances.
Storage and Retrieval of Materials
- Provide adequate, well-lit storage with easy access to reduce repetitive reaching, bending, twisting, and forceful exertions. Use mobile, lightweight storage carts with adjustable trays. Tilted containers make access easier.
- Increase the efficient use of storage space by grouping stored items by container size or shape.
Tools and Equipment Selection
Good design and proper maintenance can help reduce pressure points on the hands, awkward postures (e.g., bent wrists), forceful exertions, and other contributing factors. We’ll discuss more on this topic in the next section.
Workers should not have to use their hands or bodies as a vise to hold objects; mechanical devices do this much better. Tooling fixtures and jigs should be set up to avoid awkward postures and excessive forces.
Hand tools should fit the employee’s hand; employees with small hands or who are left-handed may need tools designed specifically for these situations. The guidelines listed below should be followed when selecting and purchasing hand tools.
- Select tools that allow the wrist to be held straight and minimize twisting of the arm and wrist. Good working posture can be maintained when properly designed tools are used.
- Select tools that allow the operator to use a power grip (uses all fingers to grip), not a pinch grip (uses only thumb and forefinger). Minimal muscle force is required to hold objects in a power grip posture. The pinch grip requires excessive fingertip pressure and can lead to a cumulative trauma disorder (CTD).
- Avoid tools that put excessive pressure on any one spot of the hand (i.e., sides of fingers, the palm of the hand).
- For power or pneumatic tools, select tools with vibration dampening built in whenever possible. Provide personal protective equipment such as gel-padded gloves to reduce exposure to vibration.
- Use better, ergonomically designed tools that may be lighter weight, require less force to operate, fit the hand better, and are more comfortable to use.
Handles: Consider the following when choosing tools:
- Handles that are rounded, soft, and padded, with no sharp edges or deep grooves, reduce pressure points on fingers and hands.
- Handles should be 1 to 2.5 inches in diameter to allow a “power grip” (using thumb and all fingers to grip) and 5 inches long so they do not dig into your palms.
- Handles with high-friction surfaces or moldable substances improve the grip.
- Padded handles can reduce pinch grip (using only thumb and forefinger) and pressure points on the fingers.
- Look for tools with two handles to help improve control.
Triggers: Tools without triggers use contact switches to replace the triggers. Multi-finger triggers reduce forces on any one finger. Trigger bars can be used to reduce activation forces.
Fixtures: Fixtures can help reduce forceful exertions by supporting the tool’s weight.
Ways to reduce hand-arm and whole-body vibration include:
- Routine maintenance
- Vibration-dampening wraps on handles
- Isolating the tool from the operator
- Properly fitting vibration-dampening gloves.
- Good design of an alternate or low-vibration tool
- Suspending or supporting tools (e.g., by a fixture)
- Providing vibration isolators (e.g., springs or pads) for seated work tasks
- Providing cushioned floor mats for standing work tasks
- Mounting equipment and work platforms on vibration-dampening pads or springs
- Altering the speed or motion of tools and equipment