ergonomics news

Ergonomics Tip: What Office Equipment Will Make Me the Most Productivity?

Ergonomics Tip

As employees struggle to self-diagnose and troubleshoot the discomfort they have at work, many reach out to management with a request for equipment. Without proper training and diagnosis, this can be a waste of resources or escalate the problem.

See if this sounds familiar:

An employee starts to experience constant or even occasional discomfort and will start to become preoccupied. They are unsure what they exactly need, but they know they need something. They may even start trying to find any excuse they can to step away from their desk.
It occurs to them that maybe a new piece of hardware will solve all their issues. “My desk is horrible. I need to be able to stand.” Management doesn’t seem to agree, so the employee seeks the support of a medical professional. They book an appointment and lay out their case – the only think that will make them better is this new piece of office equipment and possibly some anti-inflammatory medication.

The medical professional without ever seeing the person’s work setup or how they interact within that setup writes a doctor’s note recommending an “ergonomic sit stand desk.” The employee takes the note to management to get approval of a new desk. The employer buys the cheapest intervention they can find, which is something that sits on top of the existing desk and will allow the person to stand. This is delivered to the employee and unfortunately 3 months later not only do the symptoms still exist, they are worse.

Preoccupied employee = loss of productivity

Doctor visit = claim against insurance

Diagnosis without visuals and proper case management = inaccurate or incomplete documentation in the system

New desk hardware that doesn’t solve problems = wasted resources

Employee with unresolved high discomfort = Increased risk of injury

Is there a better way?

Many companies with a proactive ergonomics program will tell you – absolutely. Let’s look how this situation plays out different in a company with a comprehensive ergonomics program.

The employee starts to have discomfort. Instead of letting things escalate, they go into their online ergonomics portal and take a survey. This survey collects key information on how they work and where they are having discomfort. Upon completion of the survey the person gets a set of recommendations and training based upon their responses.

The employee is feeling a bit better, but still has some discomfort. The ergonomist stops by for an evaluation. The ergonomist sees that the employee’s desk is too high. Putting something on top of the desk that raises the keying height for the individual is likely to make the discomfort worse.

The ergonomist instead recommends a keyboard tray that will allow the employee to bring the keying height lower to better fit their needs and allow them to get into a neutral posture. The ergonomist goes over how to use the equipment and how to best maintain their fit to avoid discomfort.

Employee concerns are addressed efficiently = Employee feels company cares and decision making is in hands of trained professional, which unburdens employee

External doctor visit not needed = no claim on insurance

Proper diagnosis from an expert who sees the work area, talks with employee and sees how the employee interacts within area = complete and more accurate documentation

New equipment may or may not be issued = A more educated allocation of resources based on need with emphasis on training and fit

Employee complaints addressed and managed = decrease risk of injury and increased morale

What many of us have learned in this industry is – what works to solve the problem of one employee will not necessarily work for the masses AND until you know what the problem is, it is very hard to treat it correctly.

A person has a leg injury. Would you order a cast or a band-aid? Is the leg broken or is it a scrape? Proper diagnosis is key to a proper solution.

No doubt hardware can help a situation, but it can also do the opposite by making things worse. Properly evaluating the situation and making educated recommendations based on the person and environment, this translates to a more accurate diagnosis and greater probability for success in the solution.

2018-10-16T04:13:41+00:00Ergo Squad News, Tips|

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+00:00Ergonomic Benefits|

Ergonomics And Productivity – Some Tips To Use Ergonomic Thought

How does ergonomics improve productivity?

The presence of ergonomic risk factors — awkward postures, excessive force, and high task repetition — makes a job more frustrating and difficult to perform. This causes a variety of problems including losses in productivity. And yes, it can be counted and quantified

The ergonomics improvement process reduces risk factors and improves the interaction between the work and the worker. Done well, this process removes barriers to productivity and makes job tasks easier and faster to accomplish.

Improve productivity by reducing awkward postures

Working in an awkward posture is not an efficient way to work. The ergonomics process encourages work to be done in the “comfort zone”, causing less fatigue and helping you work faster and more accurately.

Improve productivity by reducing high force requirements

High force requirements cause unnecessary exertion that slows work down. Using mechanical assists, counter balance systems, adjustable height lift tables and workstations, powered equipment and ergonomic tools will reduce work effort and muscle exertions.

Improve productivity by reducing highly repetitive tasks

High task repetition, especially when combined with other risks factors such high force and/or awkward postures, increases fatigue and slows the work process down. Excessive or unnecessary motions should be reduced if at all possible. In situations where this is not possible, it is important to eliminate excessive force requirements and awkward postures.

Ergonomics News – Can Sit Stand Desk Reduce Obesity In Offices?

Ergonomics News

Welcome to the Victoria trial in Australia

The evaluation looked at the Stand Up Victoria trial – funded by VicHealth and the NHMRC, and led by the Baker Heart and Diabetes Institute – which supported 231 desk-based workers to stand up, sit less and move more via multiple strategies, including organisational support, health coaching, and sit-stand desks.

Twelve months after the intervention was introduced, participating workers achieved an average one hour per day reduction in their sitting time.

Would 1 hour make that much of a difference?

Lead author Dr Lan Gao, an Alfred Deakin Postdoctoral Research Fellow at Deakin Health Economics, said too much sitting time was a critical health concern greatly exacerbated for those in desk-bound occupations – 45 per cent of Australian workers.

“Workplace sitting is the largest contributor to daily sitting time among office workers, and excessive sitting is associated with serious health issues like obesity, type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular diseases and shorter life expectancy,” Dr Gao said.

“This means it’s imperative we work towards both effective and cost-effective ways to decrease sitting time in the workplace.

“Sit-stand workstations – which allow the user to position the desk at a level convenient for sitting or standing – have been put forward as one possible solution to this issue, however up until now a barrier to their widespread introduction has been the perceived prohibitive cost.

“So far there has not been any published evidence of the cost-effectiveness of such workstations, particularly when coupled with the associated education and support that is needed to help ensure their uptake and sustained use, so ours is the first Australian study to show these interventions are good value for money.”

Deakin’s economic evaluation, published today in the Scandinavian Journal of Work, Environment & Health, estimated that if the intervention was scaled up to reach 20 per cent of Australia’s office workers, it would cost $185.2 million, but would save 7492 “health adjusted life years” by preventing a range of obesity-related diseases.

Dr Gao said this equated to a cost of $28,703 per year saved, well below the often quoted threshold of $50,000 that society was typically willing to pay for these health savings.

Now that number may not seem like a lot, but remember the sample size!

She said the cost would also be partially offset by the $84.2 million saved in healthcare costs over the lifetime of these workers.

“Not only that, but from an employer’s perspective, adopting this workplace intervention also has the potential to reduce absenteeism and improve productivity,” she said.

“Before the trial participants spent an average of six hours per day sitting at work, 12 months into the trial that was reduced to five hours.

“Our evaluation shows that the introduction of sit-stand desks, alongside associated supports, is a cost-effective and innovative way to promote the health of Australia’s workforce.”

The net cost of the intervention was estimated at $344 per person, but Dr Gao said this could be reduced by economies of scale arising from bulk orders of sit-stand workstations, sharing workstations between part-time workers, and providing support through online resources and local office champions.

“Ultimately this intervention has the potential to make a very significant and sustainable positive impact on reducing workplace sitting time, but most importantly it is also cost-effective, which we know is critical in making the case for a wider rollout of this program,” she said.

2018-10-16T04:18:57+00:00Ergonomic Benefits|

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+00:00Ergonomic Benefits, Tips|

Ergonomics Article On Finding Neutral

“Finding Neutral” by Karen Wollgast

Our bodies are mechanical miracles.  When you think of the engineering that goes on in a simple movement like lifting a cup or writing a note it’s really quite amazing.  In human activities this dynamic movement causes our muscles to contract to maintain equilibrium or movement control. As we move body parts, a state of imbalance is created and our muscles work to counteract that and maintain balance.  The ideal neutral alignment can be described as the line of gravity passing through the midline of the body like a plum bob.  This supported position puts the least amount of gravitational forces on the body.  As described above, our bodies work to bring our position back to a neutral state when we move, but often in the work we do we put our bodies in awkward postures requiring muscles to maintain static holds that create fatigue and imbalance. Postures such as pulling your head forward to look at a computer screen or reaching for a mouse can create static holds of muscles that were not meant to maintain those positions for extended periods of time.  Eventually this can lead to an imbalance that affects the whole kinetic chain causing pain, discomfort, muscle imbalances and may limit movement and range of motion over time.

In order to avoid these issues, we need to be aware of what our neutral posture is and remind ourselves while moving, or in static positions to maintain neutral and supportive postures as much as possible. The University of San Francisco, Office of Environment, Health and Safety describe neutral posture as:

  • A position of ease for the body to maintain for a prolonged period of time
  • A position that supports the natural curves of the spine and maintain your body in good alignment
  • A position of ease for the body to sustain with minimal effort
  • A position that gives your body biomechanical advantages to do your work
  • A position where the stress on the musculo-skeletal system is reduced

 

Finding your neutral

To get a sense of neutral posture it is important to observe ourselves while both standing and moving.  In a standing position view yourself from the top of your head to your feet.  Are your feet straight and equally weighted on floor?  Are they pointed out or in, do your shoes wear on the inside or outside of the soles?  Are your ankles, knees and hips stacked?  Are you able to maintain and support the natural curvature of your spine?  Are your shoulders floating over your hips and ears floating over your shoulders with the crown of your head reaching up?  If any of these pieces are out of alignment be curious as to why. Tap into your body and notice how something feels if it’s in or out of neutral.  What happens when you pull your head forward of your shoulders? How does that feel in your neck and upper back? Slide your ears back over your shoulders, what dose that feel like.  Lengthen up your spine and open your chest, how does that affect your back, your breathing?

 

Now take a walk and notice what happens to your posture, are you able to maintain those supporting positions or do things come out of alignment.  When you sit down, is your spine still long and in same position as while standing?  Are you able to keep your shoulders over hips and arms at side of body? While moving, are you maintaining neutral position of your spine while bending or squatting?  Is there any discomfort in your movements or static postures that you can possibly relate to your posture?  Does shifting into a more neural supported position relieve that discomfort?

 

These are all ways to become more aware of our postures and how they affect discomfort in our bodies. I encourage clients to be curious about why something might hurt.  What might you be doing that is creating that imbalance or awkward posture?  Can you relate that discomfort to an activity?  What is it about the way you are doing that activity that might be problematic? Observe yourself externally and internally.  Feel into your body and work toward supportive postures to minimize external forces such as gravity. Below are a few tips to find and maintain neutral posture.

  • While standing, stack joints over one another with feet equally weighted on floor, ankles, knees, hips, shoulders and ears
  • While moving, maintaining that supportive position as possible
  • Avoid long static holds of awkward postures allowing the body to come back to neutral support as possible, think of moving more dynamically
  • Support repetitious movements with larger muscle support (whole arm vs awkward wrist postures) and micro breaks.
  • Move, stretch and breathedeeply often.
  • Strengthen core muscles, identify imbalances and work on building weak postural muscles
  • Practice a wide variety of movement to keep muscles balanced
  • Give yourself reminders to move, sit up straight, etc. until they become second nature

 

These are just a few ideas to help stay balanced and injury free in order to support the activities you enjoy.

2018-08-14T06:29:40+00:00Ergonomic Benefits|

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+00:00Ergo Squad News|

Ergonomics News – Don’t Be A Turtle In Front Of Your Computer!

When you are working at your workstation/desk with your computer, you might notice that your neck and maybe your lower back are hurting.  The immediate thought is what did I do to hurt them? Flashes of your activities over the last several days run through your mind.  Did I lift wrong?  Did I sleep wrong?  Did I get too carried away in softball or racquetball?  Was it riding my bike?

If you spend more than three to four hours a day working at your computer, it could be the way you are interacting with it!  You may be a Turtle!  What is a Turtle?  It is a small animal with a hard shell.  Well that is correct but not really what I am talking about – completely.  It is likely that you are leaning forward in your chair with your head up – like a turtle.  This is a very common issue.  When you lean forward you are placing a lot of pressure on your lower back which can lead to discomfort and/or pain. When this happens people typically also hold their head up – like a Turtle.  This part of the posture can cause discomfort and/or pain in your neck.  It looks like the picture at the top of this article.

The situation is typically easily corrected.  Move your computer monitor closer to you!  This action will typically “push” you back upright against the back of your chair and straighten your neck out like the picture below. Presto!  You should soon feel the discomfort in your back and neck begin to feel better.

If you are working with a laptop you can add an external monitor plugged into the laptop or you can add an external keyboard and mouse and a laptop holder like the
Goldtouch, Nextstand or the Slimstand. You can find a number of them on Amazon.

2018-07-30T07:26:18+00:00Tips|