Ergonomics and health: my work environment and me


Dr. Miriam A. Rodríguez
Family and community doctor, occupational doctor

In recent years, human beings spend most of their time outside our homes, as a result of the fact that the world is changing and globalization leads us to be proactive entities. We spend most of this time in our work, which becomes the second place where we stay longer. For this reason, we understand that it is vitally important to be in perfect harmony with this environment in which we spend more than half a day.

That is why for the year 2000 the council of the International Labor Association (IEA) adopted the term "ergonomics", a word that derives from the Greek "ergos", which means work, and "nomos" which means laws. Thus, ergonomics is defined as the science that studies how to adapt the relationship of the human being with his work environment. It is systematically organized and applicable to all aspects of human activity in order to seek a harmonious connection between man, machine and environment, developing methods of study of individuals, technique and organization. That is to say, it seeks to design a workplace in such a way that it adapts to human capabilities to prevent diseases that are triggered by work.

This discipline is divided into two main branches, one refers to industrial ergonomics (or occupational biomechanics), which focuses on the physical aspects of work and human capabilities such as strength, posture and repetitions of movements, focused on the man-work binomial and the other branch refers to human factors and is oriented to the social-psychological aspects of employment, such as mental load and decision making.

Ergonomics goes hand in hand with occupational health, which is responsible for measuring and identifying health risks in the worker in order to protect and improve the physical, mental, social and spiritual health of the same in their jobs, impacting in a positive way in the company.

According to the International Labor Organization (ILO), every day 6300 people die due to work-related accidents or illnesses. This represents more than 250 million accidents at work per year, many of them preventable, resulting in work absenteeism, with a total of 160 million occupational diseases each year.

The daily cost for occupational diseases is enormous, with economic charges that are so high that they exceed 4% of the global Gross Domestic Product of each year.

According to several studies conducted in Europe and the United States, it is estimated that 50 to 90% of regular users of computers suffer eye fatigue, red and dry eyes, eyelid tension, tearing, burning sensation, blurred vision and difficulty to focus on distant objects, at the same time that they assume inadequate body postures that generate muscle tension, which translates into headaches, neck and back pain.

These ILO estimates show fatal accident rates that reach almost half of Europe and Asia and quadruple in the Latin America / Caribbean region.

Promoting preventive ergonomic measures generates a greater state of well-being in the staff, which would translate into benefits for the company, satisfactorily decreasing work absenteeism and psychological stress, as well as reflecting an increase in productivity.

Ergonomics appeals to changing work habits applied to work, seeking not only the increase of productivity, but also taking care of the comfort, health and comfort of those who participate in the institution.

Unfortunately, prevention rules are developed once the damage has occurred and many of them appear after these effects are known. This must change, because if we know our environment, the results will be different.

We are called to be multiplying entities, failure to do so could lead to injuries both physical and mental, which in most cases can be permanent and occur due to the misuse of new technologies, due to the lack of adequate ergonomic conditions in the jobs and changes in the organization.

Published in: Today's digital newspaper

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