Ergonomics done right.®
May 6th, 2011

Home Improvements: Find Your Comfort Zone

Spring finally rolls in…let the projects begin.  As we make our way outside to assess the damages winter has brought upon our homes and yards there is more to consider than remulching our gardens, repainting our homes, or refinishing our decks.  The article, Finding the Comfort Zone, recently published in the April issue of American Painting Contractor magazine offers guidance on how you can recognize, evaluate and control potential musculoskeletal disorder (MSD) risks associated with painting tasks.  Some of these solutions can be applied across trades.  MSDs are physical problems that affect the body’s muscles, joints, tendons, ligaments and nerves.

Most work-related MSDs develop over time and have been associated with prolonged exposure to high-risk tasks.  In the painters world these tasks may include ceiling work, sanding and scraping, power washing and extended reaching often combined with awkward and forceful exertions.

Here are a few key points to remember when embarking on a painting project or a similar home improvement project:

  • Have the right tools for the job and maintain proper posture and alignment: Most painting tasks require a lot of bending and twisting of the low back and neck.  Minimizing these movements by using good body mechanics, keeping objects as close to the body as possible,  and ergonomically designed tools will reduce the onset of MSDs.  
  • Fit the job to the person: Eighty percent of the time spent at a job is spent preparing for the job.  For example, sanding, scraping and  power washing often requires extended reaching from ladders and scaffolds.  To reduce the risk,   keep elbows below heart level and work in the comfort zone (keeping objects close to body and between knees and shoulders); avoid working with your thumb pointing towards the floor; keep your feet moving and change positions frequently and try to limit your continuous extended reaches to fewer than 10 to 15 seconds.
  • Choose manual tools with proper grip handles and always wear comfortable gripping gloves.
  • Use tools that are designed to work with both hands.
  • Select ladders that provide lock-in ladder accessories to minimize trips up and down the steps.

Finding ways to keep work in the comfort zone puts our work directly in front of us, where we are the strongest, have the best dexterity and visual acuity and can work in neutral postures.  The working tips and equipment suggestions presented in the article will help you avoid pain and injury, and will give you more time to enjoy your backyard or home after your work is done.