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Ergonomics & an Aging Workforce

Posted Dec 07 2009 8:05am
Ergonomic workspace
Image by ifyr via Flickr

One of the major considerations for the aging workforce is the lower capacity for sustained activity.  When the limits are reached fatigue sets in and productivity decreases and errors increase. As such, the ergonomist must use ergonomic principles to design or re-design tasks to decrease the risk of fatigue. To help the ergonomist determine whether the older worker may be at risk, the following measurements should be included in the analysis of performance:

  1. Heart Rate (above 100 BPM indicates aerobic level of function.)
  2. Blood Pressure  (139/89 is the maximum reading for pre-hypertensive cases. If a worker reaches this level they should be referred to their physician.)
  3. Individual perceptions of stress. This 3rd metric can be ascertained using such tools as the BORG Scale of perceived patient exertion. A chart is placed in front of the worker while doing a physical task and they rate their perception of exertion. Values of 7-9 reflect light work, 13-17 is hard work and anything above 18 is considered maximum exercise capacity. Readings in the 14-16 reach correlated with the anaerobic threshold.

By determining these values on selected physically demanding tasks, a better level of function without over stressing the worker can be reached and recommended. If you do not have training in taking these types of measurements, you must defer to a medical professional.  VP Medical Consulting provides ergonomic specialists who will come to your workplace to assess the risks for your workers.  Contact us today to learn more.

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