In this article we discuss the importance of considering the full spectrum of ergonomic related issues that may occur in an organisation, along with showing the approach that can be adopted to understand the risks and be compliant with legal requirements.

Ergonomics is a broad discipline, the definition of ergonomics (or human factors) adopted by the International Ergonomics Association (IEA) is “the scientific discipline concerned with the understanding of interactions among humans 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.”  

While human factors and ergonomics are overlapping, as shown above in the Venn diagram, to differentiate between the types of assessment required, human factors is the term that is usually used when looking at cognitive factors that can influence human performance and safety e.g. behavioural safety, HAZOP, UI/UX design etc. Ergonomics is more associated with the physical factors of the work environment e.g., working postures, physical capabilities/limitations, repetitive motions, thermal environment etc.

An industrial ergonomic assessment while such assessments can focus on an individual worker, these are completed where a more in-depth analysis of a specific tasks, assembly line setup or process operation is required. Where no one size fits all and with the goal of fitting the task to the worker in mind, these assessments allow existing tasks and/or proposed new work environments to be evaluated as to their suitability to accommodate the employees engaged based on best practice standards and how risk reduction principles can be applied. 

These assessments can and should form part of the task specific manual handling assessments in the workplace which are a requirement of the Safety, Health, and Welfare at Work, (General Application) Regulations 2007, Chapter 4 of Part 2. Such assessments can be completed by a CMSE qualified ergonomist however guidance and awareness training can be given to facilitate the workforce or ergonomic champions with suitable tools to screen and prioritise work areas where in-house solutions can be sought or where more external expertise may be required.

Individual office ergonomic assessment – As the name suggests is a more specialised assessment for an individual in an office work environment often for the following reasons, existing medical issues, is experiencing persist discomfort at the workstation or as part of a return-to-work procedure to ensure the individual has the suitable working set-up. This is completed by a qualified ergonomist to advise on best practice for the worker, evaluate the most appropriate actions and solutions based on the type of work required to be completed.            

In addition, a general office ergonomic evaluation can advise and guide on the correct selection of office layout and office equipment to ensure dimensions and specification meet the DSE regulations and best practice for the largest working demographic where practical.

Display screen equipment (DSE) assessment – The Safety, Health and Welfare at Work, (General Application) Regulations 2007, (Chapter 5 of Part 2) outline the requirements that must be adhered to in relation to use of Display Screen Equipment (DSE). It requires a DSE assessment is completed on all employees who use DSE for continuous periods of more than 1 hour per day. These assessments are to be completed by a competent assessor, this could be an experienced health and safety professional or appointed members of staff with the relevant training and experience.

With a new working paradigm, often involving hybrid and varied working tasks, it is important that employees are working in an environment that is assessed as safe,  facilitate comfortable and productive and in order to reduce the risk of acute and chronic musculoskeletal injuries arising. 

Contact where we can guide and advise on pragmatic and cost-effective ergonomic solutions and where an ergonomic strategy should fit into your business.