Skip to content

Ergonomic Industrial Workstations Reduce Worker Fatigue

Customized workstations can minimize the risks of repetitive motions, and streamline tasks.

This article first appeared on the MHI Ergonomic Assist Systems & Equipment Council blog.

The pressure to deliver products quickly places a significant burden on industrial workers. © dusanpetkovic1 – stock.adobe.com

The number of manufacturing and assembly operations in the U.S. is forecast to grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 12.96%1 between 2024 and 2028. Simultaneously, value added services — often customizations performed by workers — are likely to expand at a CAGR of 3.16%2 according to Statisa reports. To facilitate those tasks, ergonomic industrial workstations reduce worker fatigue while enhancing efficiency and quality.

“Even as the industry grows, manufacturers are facing a variety of complex challenges. As automation, precision engineering and digitalization increase, the pressure to deliver high-quality products swiftly has intensified,” explained Megan Baker, Director of Marketing at UNEX. The company is a member of the Ergonomic Assist Systems & Equipment1 (EASE) Council.

“This pressure is placing a significant burden on industrial workers — particularly those tasked with producing high-quality work at high rates. They are more likely to be repeating the same movements over and over, which can lead to fatigue,” she continued. “To enhance these workers’ well-being and support their operational efficiency, it’s important to provide them with ergonomic industrial workstations outfitted with a variety of key features.”

WHAT ARE ERGONOMIC INDUSTRIAL WORKSTATIONS?

Ergonomic industrial workstations are workbench tables, outfitted for use in manufacturing, assembly and fulfillment operations. They are customizable with a variety of modular features and options that allow them to better suit each worker and task. Because no two operations or processes are the same, neither are different workstations.

“All ergonomic industrial workstations are custom designed with a layout and configuration that matches the natural movements and capabilities of the human body,” Baker said. “Many of these features minimize tiring and awkward postures, as well as reaching, stretching, bending, pulling, twisting or unnecessary movement and steps.”

KEY ERGONOMIC FEATURES REDUCE FATIGUE, BOOST PRODUCTIVITY

“The goal of an ergonomic industrial workstation’s design is to leverage key features that allow workers to perform tasks more productively,” continued Baker. “The best designed workstations increase efficiency by reducing wasted search time and movement. That can streamline a task.”

These efficiency boosters also contribute to a healthier, more satisfied workforce, she added. “Because they minimize physical strain, ergonomic industrial workstations reduce fatigue. That, in turn, cuts absenteeism and workplace injuries,” said Baker. “As it continues to be difficult to attract, hire, and retain a qualified workforce in industrial jobs, employers who pay attention to ergonomics generally experience less turnover.”

Among the most frequently incorporated workstation features are:

  • Height adjustability, either by manual or powered raising or lowering of the surface, to accommodate different workers. “This function allows persons of variable heights to use the same workstation across different shifts,” Baker explained.
  • Tilting or rotating surfaces of customizable widths and depths. Each allows easier access to the work.
  • Compact, modular cabinets and drawers placed within easy reach. “This minimizes the risk of a repetitive stress motion that could lead to a musculoskeletal injury,” noted Baker. “Some workstations utilize roller- or wheel-style flow lanes that harness the power of gravity to advance cartons or bins of parts forward. This also reduces fatigue associated with repetitive reaching and pulling motions.”
  • Integrated systems — such as peg boards, shelving, color coded parts bins mounted on bars, keyboard and monitor or tablet display arms — to organize parts. This ensures that all necessary devices and implements are easier to find, as well as keeps the work surface clutter free.
  • Task lighting and power sources for convenience and to minimize eye strain.

Find More Productivity Boosting Ergonomic Solutions

Ergonomic industrial workstations are just one of many different solutions available to reduce worker fatigue and increase productivity. For more ideas, equipment and best practices, visit the EASE Council’s website: www.mhi.org/ease. The organization’s members offer a variety of publications, guidelines, training courses and more. WMHS

Ergonomics is more than a buzzword today — it is a movement. Nationally, our demographics confirm we are aging and in deteriorating physical shape. This impacts the workplace, and good employers must think of their businesses in terms of ergonomics. EASE is the group within MHI focused solely on making work easier for people by improving the work environment. https://www.mhi.org/ease


1 www.statista.com/outlook/io/manufacturing/united-states

2 www.statista.com/outlook/io/manufacturing/united-states

Musculoskeletal Disorders in the Workplace

Musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) affect the muscles, nerves, blood vessels, ligaments and tendons. Workers in many different industries and occupations can be exposed to risk factors at work, such as lifting heavy items, bending, reaching overhead, pushing and pulling heavy loads, working in awkward body postures and performing the same or similar tasks repetitively. Exposure to these known risk factors for MSDs increases a worker’s risk of injury.

Work-related MSDs can be prevented. Ergonomics — fitting a job to a person — helps lessen muscle fatigue, increases productivity and reduces the number and severity of work-related MSDs.

Impact of MSDs in the Workplace

Work-related MSDs are among the most frequently reported causes of lost or restricted work time.

Examples of Musculoskeletal Disorders (MSDs)

  • Carpal tunnel syndrome
  • Tendinitis
  • Rotator cuff injuries (affects the shoulder)
  • Epicondylitis (affects the elbow)
  • Trigger finger
  • Muscle strains and low back injuries

A PROCESS FOR PROTECTING WORKERS

Employers are responsible for providing a safe and healthful workplace for their workers. In the workplace, the number and severity of MSDs resulting from physical overexertion, and their associated costs, can be substantially reduced by applying ergonomic principles.

Implementing an ergonomic process is effective in reducing the risk of developing MSDs in high-risk industries as diverse as construction, food processing, firefighting, office jobs, healthcare, transportation and warehousing. Among the important elements of an ergonomic process:

Management Support: A strong commitment by management is critical to the overall success of an ergonomic process. Management should define clear goals and objectives for the ergonomic process, discuss them with their workers, assign responsibilities to designated staff members, and communicate clearly with the workforce.

Worker involvement: A participatory ergonomic approach, where workers are directly involved in worksite assessments, solution development and implementation, is the essence of a successful ergonomic process. Workers can:

  • Identify and provide important information about hazards in their workplaces.
  • Assist in the ergonomic process by voicing their concerns and suggestions for reducing exposure to risk factors and by evaluating the changes made as a result of an ergonomic assessment.

Source: www.osha.gov/ergonomics

Share on Socials!

Related Articles

Related Articles

Session with OSHA’s Parker Added to Safety 2023 in San Antonio

The American Society of Safety Professionals (ASSP) will again welcome Doug Parker, assistant secretary of labor for occupational safety and health, to a special general session ...
Read More

Understanding & Preventing Workplace Electrical Fatalities

By Daniel Majano and Brianne Deerwester, Contributors Click image to view. Each year, the Electrical Safety Foundation International (ESFI) collects information on fatal occupational electrical injuries ...
Read More

Powerful and Tough, the CartMover XR Safely Moves Your Heaviest Loads

Built on the proven CartMover™ design platform and now with a 20,000+ pound capacity, the new CartMover XR is Appleton’s most powerful and flexible CartMover. The ...
Read More

Follow WMHS!

Workplace

Construction
Ind Hygiene

 

Scroll To Top