Ergonomics can roughly be defined as the study of people in their working environment. More specifically, an ergonomist (pronounced like economist) designs or modifies the work to fit the worker, not the other way around. The goal is to eliminate discomfort and risk of injury due to work. In other words, the employee is our first priority in analyzing a workstation. Officially:
“Ergonomics (or human factors) is the scientific discipline concerned with the understanding of the interactions among human and other elements of a system, and the profession that applies theory, principles, data and methods to design in order to optimize human well-being and overall system performance.”
International Ergonomics Association Executive Council, August 2000
When evaluating a job, looking for three main characteristics known as Ergonomic Stressors: the force required to complete a task, any awkward or static working postures adopted in completing a task, and the repetitiveness of a task. Any of these factors, or any combination of these factors, may place someone at greater risk for discomfort.
The Department of Environment, Health and Safety’s (EHS) purpose is to help all UNC employees create and maintain a healthy and safe working environment.
EHS’s two main goals are prevention and education.
- EHS wants to provide information and education to allow any employee to avoid injury. EHS wants to educate people on the basics of ergonomics. Not only will they be able to help themselves at work, but these principles can be applied to home, hobbies or help friends and coworkers who may have similar issues. Remember, knowledge is contagious.
- EHS provides expert assistance with ergonomic issues such as workstation setup, product choices, work methods, etc. Ideally, EHS wants to prevent discomfort at work. However, EHS is also able to help re-design workplaces to address existing issues.
Services EHS offer include:
- Performing onsite evaluations of employees’ workstations
- Recommending ways to minimize or control ergonomic stressors
- Providing information about ergonomics
- Providing consultation regarding workstation setup
- Giving on-campus training on ergonomics
- Providing product evaluations
Due to budgetary cutbacks, EHS no longer provides on-site proactive ergonomic evaluations. EHS will continue to provide an online self-assessment tool. This tool will walk the individual through a self evaluation and provide the user with recommendations to modify their workstation.