Taking strain at work? The government has your back
The workplace may soon become a pain-free zone for employees suffering from ergonomic strain
Your company giving you pain? No stress, the Department of Labour has got your back.
The SA workplace may soon become a pain-free zone for employees suffering from ergonomic strain brought on by awkward posture and forceful exertion.
Ergonomic injuries can affect the muscles, nerves, tendons, ligaments, joints, cartilage and spinal discs, which could be directly or indirectly related to job duties or the work environment.
In the week of World Spinal Day, the department’s draft regulations – which aim to protect employees from “ergonomic strain” – has come under the spotlight.
Aadil Patel, head of Cliffe Dekker Hofmeyr’s employment practice, said that while the proposed rules seemed “specifically geared to labourers and machine operators, they instruct all physical and cognitive ergonomic risk factors in the workplace to be taken into account”.
According to the University of California “the average employee may spend six to eight hours of the work day on the computer”.
“With features such as internet shopping, web bill paying and e-mail, that employee will likely spend two to four additional hours per day on his or her personal computer. “As we spend more and more time on the computer each day, it is imperative that we take the steps to be sure our computer (both at work and at home) is set up to prevent these musculoskeletal disorders,” the university said.
Patel said the department’s draft ergonomics regulations “aim to introduce additional health protection for employees in the workplace”.
“If enacted into law, these regulations will fall under the Occupational Health and Safety Act 85 of 1993. This act prescribes minimum conditions to ensure the health and safety of employees in the workplace.”
Patel said employers would be required to consider the potential ergonomic strain that employees in the workplace may face.
“The regulations impose duties on employers to provide relevant training on ergonomic strain and to conduct an ergonomic risk assessment in the workplace in order to determine ergonomic risk factors (actions or conditions in the workplace which may cause or aggravate a workplace musculoskeletal injury or disorder).
“Suppliers and manufacturers of machinery, equipment or articles to be used at work are also under specific obligations to ensure that, as far as possible, ergonomic risk factors are removed from such products,” Patel added.
The regulations are still at a draft stage.
What are the signs and symptoms of ergonomic injuries? Pain in the fingers, wrists, or other parts of the body, which may include a dull aching pain, a sharp stabbing pain or even a burning sensation;
Tingling or numbness, particularly in the hands;
Swelling, inflammation or joint stiffness;
Loss of muscle function or weakness;
Discomfort or pain in the shoulders, neck or upper or lower back;
Muscle tightness, cramping, or discomfort;
Clumsiness or loss of coordination. Source: University of California