Cold Temperatures

Cold temperatures refer to exposure to excessive cold while performing work tasks. Cold temperatures can reduce the dexterity and sensitivity of the hand. Cold temperatures, for example, cause the worker to apply more grip force to hold hand tools and objects. Also, prolonged contact with cold surfaces (e.g., handling cold meat) can impair dexterity and induce numbness. Cold is a problem when it is present with other risk factors and is especially problematic when it is present with vibration exposure.

Ergonomics-related conditions are observed in shipyards, on construction sites, in manufacturing, in the service industry, and in the office environment. When ergonomics is mentioned, many individuals immediately think of computer workstations, which are a small part of this issue, and in most cases, the problems with them are easily fixable.

Ergonomics is, by definition, fitting the workplace to the worker. It means more than changing a workstation. It means that the whole environment is designed to fit workers, including directions, controls, printed material, warning signals, mental stress, work schedules, the work climate, fatigue and boredom, material handling, noise, vibration, lighting, mental capacity, the worker-machine interface, and the list could go on.

Ergonomics brings to bear many different academic disciplines. This is especially true of the more complex workplace problems. For the most part, many solutions can be achieved simply and with little cost involved. To solve most of the problems faced with ergonomic implications, being a rocket scientist is not a requirement. The workers themselves often have very viable solutions. This is why the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) was requiring worker involvement in their now defunct ergonomics regulations. This is not to say that some of the existing ergonomic issues in the workplace will not require some time and cost investment by the employer. In most cases, this investment in solving workplace ergonomic problems decreases injuries and improves efficiency and morale.

There needs to be a standard definition that fully describes the types of incidents related to ergonomics, which is a intermingling of a multitude of disciplines such as physiological, psychological, behavioral, and psychosocial, as an interaction of machinery/equipment, workplace design, and the human interface (workers).

Ergonomic issues have escalated in recent years, as well as the cost of such injury or illness outcomes. No industry is exempt from ergonomic issues, from the office to shipbuilding. Thus, companies should recognize, evaluate, analyze, plan, and implement an ergonomic program to accomplish the following:

  • • Mitigate ergonomic injuries/illnesses
  • • Assess the multitude and magnitude of the problem
  • • Implement controls
  • • Undertake workplace and workstation redesign
  • • Foster medical surveillance and early detection
  • • Conduct training and education
  • • Evaluate progress and goal attainment
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