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Supporting Workplace Diversity with Ergonomics

Friday, June 18, 2010
By Anne Kramer

Workplace diversity has gained attention as more businesses strive to create workplace environments that are suitable to workers of many backgrounds and physical abilities. Ergonomics offers employers an excellent opportunity to foster workplace diversity; it offers the ability to customize workstations not only for each worker’s size, but also for each worker’s strength, range of motion, and other factors.

Accommodating Workers of Any Size

In a truly ergonomic workplace, virtually every aspect of each workspace is adjustable. That means that employees can tailor the height of each workstation component for optimum productivity and injury prevention.
  • Adjustable workstations are often designed to fit an extremely wide range of employees, from the most petite women to the tallest of men.
  • Surfaces that can be adapted for use while either sitting or standing encourage workers to change positions frequently. Scissor lifts can also be used for this function.
  • The ability to raise the work surface also better accommodates workers who are pregnant and need to place the work surface above the abdomen.
  • Chairs that pneumatically lift and lower also help workers of varying heights. They allow optimum worker-to-work surface height.
  • Articulating forearm rests for standing or industrial workstations can also be adjusted for any worker’s size. These devices ensure proper support and prevent strain of the arms and back.

Limiting the Need for Physical Exertion

Especially in offices, the need for physical exertion like lifting and pulling may not surface very often. However, these activities can pose a risk of injury, especially for workers who are not used to heavy lifting. Minimizing the frequency and impact of physical exertion significantly reduces the likelihood of injury.
  • It is important to educate employees on proper lifting techniques. Flash cards or computer-based education programs can be instrumental in this step. On-site workshops are also an excellent option for encouraging ergonomic habits.
  • Keeping carts readily available for moving heavier items like paper boxes or large packages reduces employees’ need to carry items long distances.
  • Heavier items should be placed on middle shelves whenever possible, eliminating the need to bend over or retrieve items from overhead.

Accounting for Range of Motion and Other Physical Limitations

Repetitive stress injuries can affect almost any part of the body, from limbs to vision. Ergonomic equipment and principles alleviate the daily strain placed on the body, allowing workers with a variety of physical conditions to remain productive and integral members of the work force.
  • Ergonomic layout of each workstation places frequently used items in easy reach. Employees with limited range of motion due to shoulder or back problems can still function productively, and other employees will be safer from injury.
  • Attention to lighting, including task lighting and eliminating glare, protects employees from eyestrain. For employees with vision problems, screen magnifiers are an excellent option.
  • Accessories like wrist rests and padded armrests reduce strain in the arms and help fend off carpal tunnel syndrome.

Ultimately ergonomics gives employers the power to accommodate workers with a variety of physical needs and abilities. By creating an ergonomically friendly workplace, businesses can better support workplace diversity.




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