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Stepwise Success

Ergonomics and Exhaustion

Published May 10, 2013 6:25 AM by Scott Warner

When we renovated our lab design, moving walls, equipment, and refrigerators, one of the techs joked the newly opened space made it “walker ready.” “We aren’t getting any younger,” she said. That seems to be a theme these days. I’m not sure we’ll be working with walkers -- I hope not -- but ergonomics and exhaustion seem to bedevil us at every turn.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has this to say about ergonomics: “Ergonomics is the science of fitting workplace conditions and job demands to the capabilities of the working population. Effective and successful ‘fits’ assure high productivity, avoidance of illness and injury risks, and increased satisfaction among the workforce.” Risk factors include repetitive motions, prolonged exertions, heavy lifting, pulling, or prolonged and awkward postures. Conditions that affect these risks include intensity, frequency, and duration.

Thus, sitting at a microscope could cause injury if it involved prolonged and frequent motions involving hyperextending, reaching, bending the neck, etc. In other words, the kinds of things we all did at twenty five and felt good enough to party at the end of the day. We are living in a different world, it seems.

The second factor -- exhaustion -- may be worse in our modern electronic age. According to CNN Health, probable causes are “a move to a 24/7 work culture, more time spent at our desks due to over-reliance on email and a more contract based, short term work force that feel insecure in the workplace -- and thus less likely to take breaks.” One UK newspaper reports an “exhaustion epidemic,” citing a study finding 42 percent of people saying lack of sleep is their biggest concern.

Exhaustion caused by stress leads to more stress, more worry, depression, and eventual burnout in a downward spiral that can be hard to break free of. It takes energy to fight exhaustion, a cruel irony. Doing more with less, worrying about changes in our industry, and fighting the general fatigue that can come with age all add to the mix.

What can we do? Next, I’ll first consider ergonomic issues.

NEXT: Move Smarter

posted by Scott Warner


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About this Blog

    Scott Warner, MLT(ASCP)
    Occupation: Laboratory Manager
    Setting: Critical Access Hospital
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