You'd have thought everyone would know by now: backache is the main cause for sick leave and can be prevented by ergonomic workplace design. What's more, when we feel good in the workplace, we are motivated, tire less easily and achieve much more. Sounds tempting, and in fact it is quite easy to implement with what is called an "ergonomic system for the industrial workplace". All it takes is the optimum ergonomic combination of industrial chair, work bench system and lighting, preferably with AGR-certified products. So rather than looking at the individual workplace components, what counts is an overall view.
Industrial chairs ideally offer balanced support with backrest contact as well as synchronous adjustment of seat and backrest. Given the frequency of shift work in the industrial context with several people using one and the same chair, the backrest contact pressure should adjust automatically. Individual adjustment is also appropriate in a permanently assigned workplace. All controls should naturally be easily accessible with a functional, ergonomic design and simple to use.
In contrast to the desk workplace, the industrial workplace often has a larger movement and handling area. A backrest that tapers to the top is ideal here, offering the necessary freedom to move while still supporting the spinal column. It is also advisable for the upper part of the chair to have an adjustable forwards tilt function together with automatic adjustment of the seat tilt. It should be easy to move from one place to another. Ergonomic push handles on the outsides of the backrest help to protect the upholstery. High chairs used at elevated industrial workstations need to be equipped with step-up solutions, such as foot rings combined with a gas spring for adjusting the height with a large adjustment range.
Standing seats are an appropriate alternative for standing workplaces. They foster a dynamic, upright body posture, relieving the strain on the legs and also spinal column. A foot trigger to adjust the seat height also leads to swift acceptance of standing seats in the laboratory situation.
At height-adjustable work bench systems, a large adjustment range makes it easy to change between standing and sitting positions. The sitting and standing heights should cover a wide range in terms of body height. The table size and table top material must be suitable for the particular individual work requirements with low-reflection table tops; all-in-all, the table or work bench must guarantee sufficient foot- and legroom. Provision must also be made to integrate an ergonomic lighting system geared to the particular visual task. Modular workplace design systems are invaluable when organising modern industrial processes in accordance with ergonomic aspects. They also make it easy to react swiftly to changing conditions. All consistently compatible elements for handling material, tools, supplies and information are optimised in ergonomic terms and can be adapted individually: investment here is money well spent on a healthy, efficient working environment.
The significance of lighting in the industrial workplace should also not be underestimated. It makes a valuable contribution in terms of safety, satisfaction and also back-friendly workplace organisation. It also has to satisfy the requirements of the respective task. This is achieved by adapting the illuminance and by selecting colour temperatures to suit the specific application, together with homogeneous illumination of the central and peripheral field of vision as well as avoiding reflections/reflected glare caused by the lamp or luminaire on the working surface. Multiple shadows can be avoided by special foils, offering the best possible glare control. Other important aspects include flickerfree light, together with high-powered, glare-reduced luminaires with fully variable dimming.
A magnifier luminaire offers appropriate support for close-range vision in work demanding special dexterity. It stops the worker from bending unnaturally far forwards while performing the task in hand. Troublefree close-range vision at a distance of 40 centimetres is possible with an arm-mounted and system luminaire. The particular suspension and easy handling lets the user point the lighting to the required field of vision in various directions and distances. LED luminaires are not absolutely vital but certainly a sensible choice as they consume about 30% less power.
Ergonomically cushioning workplace mats make a positive contribution to the working conditions of millions of people who have to stand in their job. The elasticity of the mats is rated to the human physiology and relieves the spinal column as well as the ankle, knee and hip joints. As another positive side effect, concentration and efficiency levels are sustained over a longer period of time and can thus reduce the time staff have to take off work; in the end this can also enhance motivation. The most important task for the workplace mat is to reduce jolting effects when standing, walking or turning in order to counteract premature fatigue in feet legs and back. Muscles will be less tense and swollen legs will be far less of a problem. But the elasticity rating of the mat should not be too high so that the user still feels that s/he is standing securely. Different surface structures also help to activate the leg muscles, particularly in the calves. Good workplace mats offer good slip resistance and can be used in a wide range of different settings. They must also withstand chemicals, oil, grease and similar substances. In the interests of long service lives, they should be able to withstand high loads, offer maximum safety when walked on with low turning resistance and have particularly flat edges.
Industrial workplaces naturally also need ergonomic tools. It is advisable for example to use screwdrivers or pliers with ergonomic handles. They can help to reduce tension and pain at work. Screwdrivers are one of the most used of all tools. No matter whether they are used regularly or just now and then, if they don't lie in the hand properly with optimum force transmission, the user will quickly feel tension and pain. The handle of a screwdriver should therefore be designed to permit effective, ergonomic use. Suitable screwdrivers have different handles that are adjusted to the anatomic requirements of the hand. Narrower handles for example are ideal for precise working. In this case, the handle must be long enough to ensure that the tool is held securely. Wider or thicker handles are ideal when greater force is required. Different screw-driving zones and surfaces for a wide range of possible uses are as just as beneficial as integrated roll-off protection. As a result, less strain is placed on the whole locomotor system involved in using a screwdriver without needing any additional effort.
If you work a lot with a screwdriver every day, you should think about using a tool that supports you in your work. Because nowadays there are screwdrivers with electrical screw support. They are similar to a normal tool of this category, can be used with comparable flexibility and the drive can be switched on if required. The screw is tightened manually.
Pliers are also frequently used in the industrial workplace. A specially angled pliers handle (pistol-grip handle) and a corresponding ergonomic hand position during use also provides relief for the hand/arm system. Parallel movement of the arms is the special feature of these pliers. They let the user use all 5 fingers at the same time to grasp the pliers along the whole opening range of the arms. The hand closing force is distributed evenly across the middle finger joints, compared to the different force transmission found in conventional pliers. Needless to say that corresponding pliers have to be offered in different versions, as well as having a reset mechanism and a surface coating that makes it possible to hold the tool securely. Working with ergonomic pliers and handle concepts is therefore noticeably more comfortable across the whole range of movement, thanks to the clearly increased application of force. Results of the concept: Longer, gentler and fatigue-free working is possible while needing less physical effort.
Conclusion: It is definitely worth while thinking and acting in overall concepts in the interests of health and motivation. An ergonomic overall concept can even help to reduce absenteeism caused by sick leave.
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