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:
- Reaching / outstretched arms
- Fixed / static postures in situations where the individual has little or no opportunity to influence or vary their posture
Examples of poor working postures can be seen below.
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.
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.
In these examples, as well as the obvious stooping the arms need to be held outstretched to undertake the task.
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.
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.
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:
- Prolonged, or
or any combination of these, there may be a risk of injury.
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.
- If poor postures can be designed out, the risk of discomfort and injury is reduced.
- The better the posture (of your back, arms, neck) – the more comfortable and efficient the work.
- Think of ways posture could be improved e.g. better layout, using different designs of tools/equipment, ensuring appropriate workstations and seating.