Animal handling and care at CSU presents a very unique and challenging set of circumstances from an ergonomics perspective. Because animal behavior can be unpredictable and movements unexpected, employees are faced with a number of difficult responsibilities. Employees who handle and care for animals are potentially exposed to heavy lifting and other types of forceful exertion such as forceful grasp or pinch grip to restrain or hold animals for treatment or to use tools and equipment to perform treatments or to administer medication. Awkward postures in multiple areas of the body can also be beyond ideal levels, stressing the joints, muscles and tendons and when combined with forceful exertion, increases injury risk. Repetitive motions or sustained awkward motions and postures can also be seen regularly and contribute to an increased injury risk especially when combined with other risk factors.
Ergonomic risks for employees working with animals are much the same as any other job tasks but can potentially be more damaging because of the nature of the work and unpredictability of animals. Ergonomics in any task deals with reducing or eliminating exposure to injury risk factors by designing tools, equipment, workstations and processes to meet the capabilities of humans. Working with animals, although very different from other tasks such as manual materials handling, needs proper consideration of ergonomics and the implementation of necessary ergonomic controls. Whether with an administrative control such as job rotation or the implementation of an engineering control to reduce or eliminate exposure to ergonomic risk altogether such as the implementation of a height adjustable table or hoist, additional focus and consideration of ergonomics when working with animals of all types should be given.
To ensure workplace ergonomic hazards are identified an Ergonomic Evaluation or assessment of the workplace or job tasks is recommended.
When should an ergonomic evaluation be conducted?
An evaluation should not take place after pain and discomfort are already present. An ergonomic evaluation should be used as a preventive measure to identify, evaluate and control ergonomic injury risk factors. An evaluation is always highly recommended, however, please contact the ergonomics office with questions regarding an ergonomic evaluation, risk assessment and task analysis.