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Working posture

This refers to the posture that an individual is required to adopt due to the layout of a workstation and/or the nature of the task. Poor working posture is a common ergonomic hazard in pharmaceuticals industry workplaces. It can cause fatigue, discomfort and injury risk, particularly at fixed workstations such as safety cabinets, inspection or packing workstations.

Examples of poor working posture include:

Examples of poor working postures can be seen below.

Stooping

worker bending down over work bench worker bending down over work bench

Bent back, head bowed down.

In these examples this is caused by the work surface being too low for the individual and the task being performed.

Worker stretching neck to look in microscope worker bending down over work bench

Head bowed down & neck flexed

These tasks require the individual to keep their head in this posture for long periods. The fixed and low position of the work items dictates their head/neck posture.

Reaching

Worker stretching over work bench Worker stretching into fume cupboard

Outstretched arms

In these examples, as well as the obvious stooping the arms need to be held outstretched to undertake the task.

Worker twisting to reach work bench Worker twisting to reach work bench

Lack of legroom

This forces the individuals to sit away from the bench and reach forward. The safety screens and tall measuring flasks result in outstretched and elevated arms whilst undertaking this precise operation. Notice also the twisted backs.

Twisting

Worker twisting to reach work bench


Note that the hips and shoulders are out of line with each other and the spine is rotated.

The work surface is too low for this individual to comfortably stand at this workstation. However the lack of legroom under the fume cupboard means that he sits with a twisted back when facing his work.

Fixed/static postures

Worker stretching to look in microscope Worker leaning over work bench

Little opportunity to influence or vary working posture

These awkward working positions are dictated by the layout of the equipment and the requirements of the task. In each case high levels of concentration are required, however the individuals have very little control over their working position and are largely fixed in this posture for the duration of the task.

Working posture - When is there a risk?

Identifying poor working postures can be straightforward once you know what to look for. But are all poor postures risky postures? For example, would stooping over to pick a pencil up from the floor constitute a significant risk of injury?

Clearly not, as would be suggested by common sense.

However there may be a risk if rather than picking up just one pencil, the task involved stooping down hundreds of times to pick up pencils. [Repetition]

There may also be a risk if it were necessary to stoop over and maintain that stooped posture for half an hour or more. [Duration]

It would also be risky if the item picked up whilst stooping was a sack of salt rather than a pencil. [Force]

Thus in summary, if poor postures are either:

or any combination of these, there may be a risk of injury.

Summary

The basic principle is to think carefully about the equipment and workstations that are provided and how these may effect the users comfort and efficiency.

Case studies

Updated 2008-12-05