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While preparing for our webinar on Ergonomics and Total Worker Health for Industrial Athletes, we reflected on why we don’t often see these terms seamlessly interwoven.
Ergonomics is both a science and an art. It involves educating employees about physiology, injury prevention and how to manage physical discomfort. It also covers factors such as adjusting tools, tasks and workstations to fit the individual, in turn reducing the likelihood of musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) caused by repetitive stress and overuse.
Total worker health takes many forms in the workplace. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health’s Total Worker Health® Program uses this definition: “Policies, programs and practices that integrate protection from work-related safety and health hazards with promotion of injury and illness prevention efforts to advance worker well-being.” It involves designing work and employment conditions to prioritize safety and improve physical and psychological outcomes. This may include sleep hygiene, stress management, hydration and nutrition, and personal physical fitness.
The term industrial athlete typically refers to workers who can benefit from coaching to help them adapt to physically demanding or repetitive jobs. This may include obtaining athletic trainer-style guidance to prevent injury or recover from strains, sprains and other types of MSDs.
This raises two important questions:
There are five major ergonomic risk factors: force, frequency, posture, vibration and contact stresses. Training on stretching and proper postures, handling material and tools, and working safely in enclosed spaces or extreme temperatures are examples of ways to mitigate these risks.
This is where ergonomics and total worker health intersect with industrial athletes. It takes skilled practitioners and a multi-disciplinary team to successfully merge these concepts and develop strategic partnerships to make a difference in people’s lives.
In sports, children and adults are often assigned to age categories to help “level the playing field” and make competition fair. Similarly, ergonomic and total worker health interventions must be adapted to the needs of multigenerational employee populations. Age, gender, physical conditioning, cultural and behavioral norms, communication style and comfort level with the use of technology all must be taken into consideration.
MSDs do not have to be accepted as part of life and a cost of doing business. Ergonomics, total worker health and multigenerational interventions for industrial athletes create opportunities for positive personal change by employees and allow employers to support their health and well-being over the long term.
Click here to access the webinar recording.
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