ergonomics article

Ergonomics News – Are You Using Science Or Hunch For Employee Performance Evaluation?

By Rick Wertheimer, ErgoSquad President

People or workforce analytics involves using digital tools and data to measure, report, and understand employee performance. Previous efforts to make decisions about an employee base have been steeped in the idea of a “gut feeling.” It is easier to make better decisions with the advent of data analytics.

The need to improve the quality of talent is being driven, in part, by a tight labor market. What companies have learned by employing better customer experience is now being used to drive better employee experience. Afterall, employees are really the first customers of a company.

The word, ergonomics, is derived from two Greek words: ergon, meaning work, and nomoi, meaning natural laws. Combined together, they create a word that means the science of work and a person’s relationship to that work. More specifically, ergonomics is the science of designing the job to fit the worker, rather than physically forcing the worker’s body to fit the job.

Adapting tasks, tools, and equipment to better fit the worker can help reduce physical stress on a worker’s body and eliminate many potentially serious, disabling work related musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) which will lead to greater productive and reduce the cost of health and worker’s comp claims. An ergonomic assessment fosters the identification of the environmental factors creating a performance gap and the potential for MSDs and the correctable conditions required to reduce or eliminate the gap and health risk.

People analytics involves the collection of data from many different worker disciplines. The simple premise of ergonomics makes it a natural discipline to include in the analysis of worker performance. Including the data collected through ergonomic assessments and identified corrective measures in workforce analytics will result in a richer dataset, better decision making and ultimately worker experience and productivity.

Are you using Ergonomic in your workplace? Do you think Ergonomics analysis will help you make better decisions?

Rick Wertheimer is President of ErgoSquad. Find out more about Rick here

2018-09-17T14:39:34-07:00Ergonomic Benefits|

Ergonomics Article – Is It You Or Your Desk Causing Pain?

Ergonomics Article

By Ergonomist Hank Austin


Are Your Shoulders and or Upper Back Sore?  It could Be Your Desk!!!

Ergonomics is the science of fitting equipment to people. Typically, we see that people are struggling to fit to their office equipment-including their desks. Most companies have their desks set at one height for all their employees. Here are two examples that might give you a feel for the situation:

  1. If Every golfer is given the same size golf clubs- Why would this be a problem?
    1. This may cause discomfort or even injury.
    2. This may also cause an adverse impact on their productivity.
  2. All shoes are made in one size.
    1. This may cause discomfort or even injury.
    2. This may also cause an adverse impact on their productivity.

Both of these examples illustrate the issues with a one size fits all approach. Very few desks are actually properly fitted and comfortable.

Your initial response could be “This is ridiculous! No one would ever do that!” The reality is that most fixed desks are set at a height of 29”-30” high and that is way too high for the vast majority of the population that works on computers. We have a population of office workers that sit with their arms up on top of the desk causing a variety of issues including shoulder/upper back discomfort, pain, and/or injury.

Our data shows that an average of 60% of all computer users are in significant discomfort – that can include pain, numbness, and injury. What is this doing to your productivity? What do you think costs more over time: a one-time cost for proper equipment or equipment adjustment or a negative productivity impact that hits every hour, day, week, month and year?

Consider this: I am 6’-2” and the proper desk height for my keyboard is 25”. Yes 25”! That height allows me to sit back in my chair and relax my shoulders when typing, which lets the blood flow through them easily. When your shoulder muscles are contracted from being pushed up, they get tired and can start to hurt. Someone else at 6’-2” will likely have a different desk height than me as they may have a different length torso, lower legs, or upper arms which all impact your correct desk height fit. Good ergonomics is all about improving organizational performance by focusing on individual needs.  A little well directed work in the right places can have big positive impact on the organization!

Desk height is also a big issue when using adjustable sit/stand desks. People do not intuitively know how to properly use this equipment, so they revert to what they’ve always had previously/experienced/known. They use a sit stand the same way they used to when they were forced into a position by a fixed desk that was at an improper height. Many who have a desk adjusted too high or too low when they stand can end up hurting their neck, back, or wrists.

We need to make sure that we are properly identifying these issues and training our people on how to avoid discomfort or injury. The “gold standard” of ergonomics is getting productivity up by making people comfortable! People tend to slow down, make more mistakes, and have difficulty focusing when they are hurting.

So, get your desk adjusted down or your chair up (and use a foot rest) so you can get into a neutral posture!

Hank Austin CSP, MS of ErgoSquad has many years of experience in developing and managing high performing ergonomics programs.

Ergonomics Article – Is It How We Sit Or The Way We Sit?

Orthopedic surgeon Nomi Kahn says:

“Most of us do not sit well, and we’ve certainly been putting a lot more stress on our spines,” says Khan, who operates on spines at Sutters Health’s Palo Alto Medical Foundation.

If we change the way we sit, Khan says, it will help to decrease back problems.

“We should sit less, and we should sit better,” he says.

Over the past century or so, many Americans have lost the art of sitting, he says. Most people in the U.S. — even children — are sitting in one particular way that’s stressing their backs. You might not realize you’re doing it. But it’s super easy to see in other people.

Here’s how: Take a look at people who are sitting down – not face-on but rather from the side, in profile, so you can see the shape of their spine.

There’s a high probability their back is curving like the letter C — or some version of C. Or it might make you think of a cashew nut, sitting in the chair. There are two telltale signs: Their shoulders curve over and their butts curve under. That posture is hurting their backs, Khan says.

“Most people tend to round out their backs when they sit,” Khan says. “Their spine is in an improper position, and they will tend to have more back problems.”

Back problems crop up because sitting like a C — or a cashew nut — can damage the little shock absorbers in the spine, called the intervertebral disks.

“You can think of a disk as a jelly doughnut,” Khan says. “Sitting like a C puts a lot more pressure on the front of the doughnut than on the back.”

And what happens when you press down on one side of a jelly doughnut but not the other side? Jelly can squirt out.

Your spinal disks aren’t much different. Sitting in a C-shape, over time, can cause disk degeneration. Or one side of a disk can start to bulge. “The disk can then push against nerves, or it can rupture,” says biomechanists who direct the Spine Research Institute at Ohio State University.

“When the disks get messed up, you’ve got real problems,” Marras says. “So everything we do in biomechanics is to try to protect the disks.”

Are there experiments you can do? Take a look at the people around. Look for the “C.” Read the full article and hear the audio here.

2018-08-17T15:59:52-07:00Ergonomic Benefits, Tips|

Ergonomics For Children – An Ergonomics Article To Help With School

By Ann Hall, Ergonomist

Kids carrying backpacks? Check out these Ergonomic Tips:

Check their backpack every once in a while. In fact, if it feels pretty heavy, put it on a scale. If the weight is too much, find things to take out. Perhaps they don’t need to bring home every book, every day or they have a lot of clutter items that are just adding weight.

If they wear a backpack, make sure it fits them. Try on backpacks and make sure you have a good fit. Children should have backpacks designed for smaller frames and young adults should have backpacks designed for them. If you know that you have body dimensions such as a short torso, keep that in mind when purchasing.

Ideally the heaviest part of the load will be tight and close to the body, not drooping way down. Strive to have the bulk of the bag between the shoulders and the hips. Avoid letting the back pack hang more than 2-4 inches below the waist. The straps should always fit snugly to keep the bag close against the body and reduce swaying.

A bag with compartments is great, not just for organization, but it helps control the shifting of items in the backpack which can make the load become unbalanced. Best practice is to use the compartments to help distribute the load within the backpack. Make sure when you do this that you try to spread things out evenly, between the left and right side, and again heaviest items towards the back of the pack (side closest to the body).

Make sure the backpack has good straps, they are adjusted to fit the child and that the kids use both straps. Straps help absorb some of the load. Wide, padded shoulder straps help reduce the stress on the body. Be sure to readjust the straps to accommodate either heavier or lighter clothing during season changes.

Bags that you sling over one shoulder increase strain on one side of the body. Use double strapped bags that place a strap over each shoulder, not just one. Better yet, look for a back pack with both waist and chest straps too. Waist straps help to distribute the weight load and can reduce pressure in the shoulders. A chest strap helps keep the shoulder straps stable and reduces shifting of the load.

Coach them on proper use. Even if you have the perfect bag for your child, it is not a guarantee that they will use it the way you intended. Give them a little coaching when you see them over-stuffing the bag or carrying the bag using only one of the straps.


Ergonomics Article By Karen Wollgast – The Cost Of Doing Nothing In Ergonomics, Part 1

The Cost of Doing Nothing

As health and safety professionals, we tend to be doers.  We want to help organizations and their employees work safely, maximize productivity and well-being.   For this, there is a cost to the organization, whether it be for services, equipment, subscriptions, etc.  If we have accomplished what we set out to do, the organization can reap a hefty ROI in lowered claims cost (occupational and non-occupational), increased productivity, lower absenteeism and presenteeism, reduction in turn over, and many other costs associated with employees.

It seems pretty straight forward, yet sometimes we find organizations push back on investing in these type of programs. Even if we are able to personalize the results for an employer they may be hesitant about what they will uncover and worry that costs will escalate in additional equipment and a spike in claims as employees are made more aware and encouraged to report issues, the earlier the better.  They may have put an effort into purchasing equipment that is not being utilized or is not providing the solution it was intended for and may think ROI is an elusive statistic they can’t seem to achieve.  Sometimes they do nothing, keep things the way they are and go on about their daily business because doing nothing costs nothing.

But doing nothing means nothing changes, injuries stay the same or get worse increasing worker compensation costs. Productivity does not improve because employees may be in discomfort and working inefficiently, turn-over rates may increase and the overall employee experience may be rather ho hum.  And even worse, organizations may have no idea of why these costs increase or even any tracking methods in place to measure important items such as productivity, employee engagement, claims costs, etc.

Fortunately, there are several tools and lots of data out there that employers can use to measure and track their progress. Many professional societies such as PSHEFS and employer’s insurance carriers and brokers can help organizations get a baseline of things to track and provide tools and resources to help develop a plan.

During a recent meeting with Rick Goggins, Ergonomist at Washington State Labor and Industries, he provided these tips on good starting points for organizations.

  • Get a handle on purchasing. Make sure that solutions you are investing in are reviewed by someone who knows what they are doing and has an overall picture of the company’s direction so that, especially large purchases are not just being bought on a department credit card and put into use without proper review and training.
  • Stop spending on bad solutions. Enlist the help of a safety and health professional to assist you in reviewing solutions that will be effective and can help with implementation.
  • Provide training to employees on how to use their equipment, reporting processes for any issues they may be having and set an expectation on processes to follow. Show employees that the organization cares about their health and well-being and they are an important part of the team’s efforts.
  • Doing nothing will gain nothing. Productivity of workers who are in discomfort is significantly impacted. Since the payback, especially in office settings, mostly comes from increased productivity, finding out who those people are in your organization and providing solutions can have a big impact on worker production.  Even gaining increased productivity in 2 workers out of 100 still has a positive impact on costs and productivity.
  • There are many other positive impacts that can be tracked as well.Employee engagement and experience, recruitment and retention are all programs employers are putting a lot of effort into these days.  They are also positively impacted by effective health and safety programs.
2018-08-03T15:28:59-07:00Ergo Squad News|

Ergonomics Advice – Travel Tips From One Of Our Ergonomists

Ann Hall, an Ergonomist with Ergo Squad suggests that there are several things you can do do alleviate travel pain. An example:

1. If you are uncomfortable or in pain, take a break. Actually, take a break anyway.

Instead of waiting until you are so uncomfortable you can’t stand it anymore OR until you have crossed that line into the area of pain, take a break. Small breaks give your body a chance to recover. As reasonable as this sounds, many of us simply choose to ignore our body.

We don’t have time to listen to our body, or do we? Research shows that those who take more micro breaks, end up being more productive. Small breaks help us recover both mentally and physically.

If you are working in less than ideal conditions (lighting, awkward postures, repetition …) like on the road, you probably need more breaks than usual. Once you start to feel antsy or start feeling discomfort, your body is telling you that it needs a break. Ideally you would get ahead of fatigue and discomfort by taking breaks before this ever happens.

Here are some examples of breaks that can help you on the road:

1) Close your eyes for 30 seconds to a minute. Just give yourself a break from staring at the screen.

2) Put your hands on the top of your thighs and just let them rest there for a minute or two.

3) If you are holding a device and working, make sure you put it down and allow your body to just rest in a nice neutral posture.

4) Take the opportunity to stand up and move around a bit at least every hour.

How often should you do this? Well, that depends on your level of discomfort and the intensity and duration of your work, but I think a good rule of thumb is: take a small break of 1-3 minutes every 20-30 minutes. At a minimum try to take one break that is 3-5 minutes long every hour. Adjust this to fit your preference and work style.

2018-07-24T11:24:07-07:00Ergonomic Benefits|