Jess Smith
Director of Environmental, Health & Safety
215 College Street
Lewiston, ME 04240

James Guzelian
Environmental, Health & Safety Specialist
215 College Street
Lewiston, ME 04240

Ergonomics is a branch of science which investigates human abilities and limitations in relation to work demands, and applies that knowledge to improve interactions with products, systems, and environments.

In the 50 years since the advent of ergonomics, it has gradually become clear that to be used safely and effectively, systems and products need to be designed with human limitations in mind. This discipline affects all aspects of our lives such as work, sports, and leisure. Design processes should take into account the variability of people’s physical size, strength, vision, hearing, thermal comfort, motion, vibration, and workloads. If any of these variables are not accounted for in a particular environment, it may result in discomfort and/or injury.

Bates College has developed an ergonomics program to minimize Musculo-Skeletal Disorders (MSDs) in the workplace. The primary elements of the ergonomics program include: (1) worksite evaluations, (2) control of exposures that may have caused musculo-skeletal disorders, and (3) ergonomics training of employees. The ergonomics program also focuses on educating employees on their personal responsibility to ensure good work habits (such as posture and body mechanics) and adequate fitness for work.

Musculo-Skeletal injuries, identified and diagnosed by a licensed physician that can result from a job, process, operation, or poor work habits, where employees perform the same repetitive motion tasks. Examples of repetitive motion tasks include, but are not limited to, sustained computer keyboard and mouse usage; assembling materials and products; or lifting, carrying, and loading objects.

When a MSD has been reported at Bates College that results from a job, process, operation, or poor work habits, a worksite evaluation will be conducted. The evaluation identifies potential exposures that may have caused MSDs and determines the methods Bates College will use to control or minimize them. Affected employees will be informed of the potential exposures and trained in the control measures.

Every reasonable effort will be made to correct exposures in a timely manner that may have caused MSDs or, if the exposure is not capable of being corrected, to minimize it to the extent feasible. In determining how to correct or minimize exposures, Bates College will consider reasonable, cost-effective engineering or administrative controls. Employees are provided with training that includes an explanation of the ergonomics program, exposures that have been associated with MSDs, the symptoms and consequences of injuries caused by repetitive motion, the importance of reporting symptoms and injuries, and the methods used to minimize MSDs.

There are three primary risk factors that contribute to musculo-skeletal disorders, otherwise known as repetitive motion injuries, or cumulative trauma disorders; awkward posture, force, and repetition. One or all combined is at the root of most workplace problems, whether health, productivity, or quality.

All of us can significantly reduce our risk of injury if we can adhere to the following ergonomic principles: 1) All work activity should permit the use of several different but equally safe postures to complete a task, 2) where muscular force must be exerted it should be done by the largest appropriate muscle groups available (legs versus back for lifting) and, 3) work activities should be performed with the joints at about mid-point of their range of movement, this applies particularly to the head, trunk, and upper limbs, 4) keep items close to your body and avoid reaching. These disorders may take a lifetime of activity to develop. It is, therefore, important to catch them at an early stage.

All employees are encouraged to immediately report to the Human Resources Department all suspected MSDs, MSD symptoms, or other ergonomic concerns. Employees must report all workplace MSDs as soon as possible after they have been identified and diagnosed by a licensed physician.

Post-offer medical examinations may be required for positions in which there is a bona fide job-related physical requirement. They are given to all persons entering those positions only after conditional job offers to help ensure they are able to perform their duties safely, refer to section 216 of this handbook. All medical records are confidential and will be kept separate from personnel files.

Appointments for ergonomic evaluation can be made in the Human Resources Department. Interested employees who would like to serve on the campus wide Ergonomics Committee, please call the Safety Office within Human Resources at 786-8226.

Source: Section 512, Bates College Employee Handbook