What is ERGONOMICS, and how does it relate to musculoskeletal injury prevention and human performance in mining?

Photo of Miner on job, crouched over with poor ergonomicsSimply stated, ergonomics is defined as the study of “people at work”. More specifically, it is the science of matching workers and workplaces in a manner that lowers a person’s risk of musculoskeletal injury while improving the person’s work performance. All of this is based on understanding human physical and psychological abilities and limitations, and then applying this knowledge to the design of the man-made environment.

There is now a large amount of ergonomics information available from NIOSH, various universities, the Board of Certified Professional Ergonomists, and the internet (this information has not been vetted for technical accuracy as opposed to sales potential – think back belts – so be careful with it) on the subject of ergonomics. Links to some of this material are provided on this University of Arizona website. As occupational health & safety professionals, we owe it to the people we serve to listen to complaints and to find ways to prevent not only fatalities, but also the myriad of musculoskeletal injuries that incapacitate people and ruin their lives. Don’t waste your people –take care of them. Use the ergo-info that is out there, and get help from a professional if necessary to resolve ergo problems.

The “Man from Fram” says pay me now or pay me later ……….. so does the ergonomist. If a job, tool, or piece of equipment are not designed within people’s capabilities, there will be poorer performance, lots of pain and ibuprofen use, and eventually recordable injuries.