Limited numbers of the Office Ergonomics Handbook, written by the Occupational Health Clinics for Ontario Workers (OHCOW) are available for OPSEU members at their regional offices. You can also download a pdf of the handbook below.
What is ergonomics?
Ergonomics is the science of fitting the job to the worker.
Ergonomics aims to design work stations, work processes, equipment, and tools to fit workers of different sizes, shapes and limits. Designing work stations to suit workers decreases the risk of musculoskeletal injuries.
The main ergonomic risk factors in the office are:
- Repetition — tasks or body movements carried out over and over again.
- Awkward postures — body positions that contort your bones and muscles, such as twisting your neck to view your monitor.
- Static forces — maintaining a position for a long period of time, such as viewing the monitor with a bent neck.
The Office Ergonomics Handbook will help you create an ergonomically appropriate work station and make other improvements in your work environment.
Workers rights and ergonomics
The Occupational Health and Safety Act does not directly address ergonomic issues. It does give you three basic rights:
- the right to know about workplace health and safety hazards.
- the right to participate in making recommendations about health and safety.
- the right to refuse work if you have reason to believe it endangers your health and safety.
For health care workers, Health Care Regulation 67/93 Sec 22-27 provides directions on lighting, and Sec 24 provides specifics on computer use: If a worker is required to use a video display terminal (VDT) for a continuous period of one hour or more, the worker shall have at least five minutes of time free from such work in every hour. Other workers may use the regulation as a guideline.
Use your rights
You can use your three rights under the Act to improve the ergonomics of your workplaces.
- Use the handbook as a guide
- Adjust chairs and other equipment as best you can to create an ergonomically appropriate work station
- Report complaints about ergonomics to your supervisors
Joint Health and Safety Committees, or Health and Safety representatives should make recommendations to the employer on improving workplace ergonomics.
Your Collective Agreement may address ergonomics. Collective agreements often contain language allowing a VDT user a short break after steady computer use, or employer-paid eye exams. Gaining such provisions in your Collective Agreement should be part of your ongoing bargaining strategy.