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Frances Pisano, CEO and founder of Pisano & Associations LLC (the parent company of The ERGOLAB at Ergonomic Edge) was published in the most recent version of the Design-Build Institute of America‘s (DBIA) monthly publication, Design Build DATELINE.  Design-Build is a membership organization bringing together thousands of organizations and individuals representing architects, engineers, public and private owners, general and specialty contractors, manufacturer and suppliers, students, college and university faculty, legal and finance professionals and many more. 

Frances was asked to share her point-of-view on Hospital Ergonomics, the article is titled “Hospital Design; Ergonomics Should Be The Next Big Trend” – check it out!

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There is an old carpenter’s axiom, ‘measure twice, cut once’.  The lesson? Careful, informed planning is essential to ensure a positive outcome.  Hurry to complete a project, and you do so at your peril. A lot of wasted wood cut just a skosh too short.  

Ideally, Ergonomics should play a central role in the design and build out of any building where people will work.  Understanding the needs and limitations of the human body at rest and in movement should inform the work of architects, designers and builders.   Have you ever worked in a business environment where the building structure, layout, space allocation for job tasks, movement & pass-through, while up to all current day building codes, seems to interfere or impede productivity?   The workspace allocated per employee in office environments is often driven by cost issues (cost per sq foot), rather than building an understanding of the tasks employees would be asked to perform….THEN DESIGN TO MEET THOSE NEEDS.   Or, perhaps the business, like most, have gone through significant expansion in their use of technology. New tools are forced into existing environments; this reality introduces risk factors into the workplace.  Or, the employer needs to support as many workstations in an area as possible, with little or no regard for human factors and ergonomic realities.  (think CALL CENTER – have you ever walked through a large call center – YIKES – an MSD factory). 

A growing part of our ERGOLAB practice is consulting within a hospital environment.  Nursing injuries are on the rise. OSHA accident and injury data has identified nursing as one of the most dangerous professions in the US.   Why?  THE PERFECT STORM OF FACTORS; 

  • HEAVY LIFTING – On average, a nurse  lifts 1.6 TONS of human body weight every shift.  Injuries from heavy lifting leave 50% or more working in chronic pain
    or at least 12% leaving the profession, many with permanent disabling injuries.  The rate of Musculoskeletal Disorders or MSDs in healthcare workers exceeds that of workers in construction, mining and manufacturing.
  • FATIGUE – Nurses walk 1/3 of every shift due to poorly designed floor layouts and inadequate storage at the point of care. A nurse walks more than 6  miles per shift.
  • TECHNOLOGY – New technologies have transformed healthcare; unfortunately, many of the nation’s hospitals were built before the invention of computers. Tools and technology is crammed into every nook and cranny on patient care floors.  Nurses spend HOURS at computer workstations that are poorly designed, forcing out of neutral body postures and increasing the risk of MSDs. 
  • EMPLOYEE SAFETY NOT A PRIORITY – Present day hospital culture is about PATIENT SAFETY concerns and conversations; employee safety is a distant second.   The typical hospital will have a Patient Safety Officer, with enterprise level responsibilities and resources. That same hospital will relegate Employee Safety responsibilities to any number of ‘owners’ at the middle management level. 
  • MORE WITH LESS – Financial challenges resulted in nursing layoffs – nurses are asked to do more…..much more….with less.  40 % of nurses today work in excess of 12 hours
    per shift. Longer hours, more shifts, less down time.  

Intelligent hospital design, leveraging human factor and ergonomics expertise would alleviate MANY of the factors listed above.  Lifting tools and technologies exist that could eliminate injuries due to heavy lifting.  Floor plan design must evolve to eliminate unnecessary walking that contributes to fatigue, then injury.  Technology can be better integrated at the point of care, with ergonomic solutions to minimize MSD risk.   Any design must have adaptable, changeable and flexible enough to meet accommodate changes in technology. 

The good news….a VERY real opportunity exists in the coming decade to address hospital design issues and create the care center of the future.  The healthcare industry is experiencing a construction boom: 

  • Hospital construction spending is forecasted at $36.8 billion by 2011 with expected annual increases year to year (source – Center for Medicare & Medicaid Service)
  • 58% of existing hospitals plan to add beds in the next few years to accommodate aging baby boomer populations (source – Nurse Executive Center – CNO Survey)

Ergonomics must be one of the guiding principles in future hospital design.   Let’s not ‘assume’ that Ergonomics is central to the design methodology….DEMAND IT.  Make sure the development teams have MEASURED TWICE…before they finalize design.  The costs of business as usual are too high.

Have something to say on this topic?  Please add your comments. 

If you’d like to discuss our consulting services in this area, please contact Frances Pisano at 401-529-8398 or fpisano@pisanoassociates.com

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Well….the cat is out of the bag.  All this time, American business has been worried about a new attempt by OSHA to create an Ergonomic specific regulation.  Business organizations like the US Chamber of Commerce and others were lining up resources for another fight.  Well folks….it looks like the ‘war’ was won without a single shot.   Hidden in plain sight, is all the regulatory muscle OSHA needs; the general duty clause.

WHAT?  Yes it’s true. During an April 7th web chat, Deputy Assistant Secretary Jordan Barab stressed that OSHA’s enforcement of ergonomic issues is a key strategic component, and will increase, noting that the general duty clause will be used to cite ergonomic violations.   THE GENERAL DUTY CLAUSE.  It’s not sexy or flashy….but this approach and regulation has teeth.  

The General Duty Clause of the United States Occupational Safety and Health Act (Federal OSHA) states:

29 U.S.C. § 654, 5(a)1: Each employer shall furnish to each of his employees employment and a place of employment which are free from recognized hazards that are causing or are likely to cause death or serious physical harm to his employees.”

29 U.S.C. § 654, 5(a)2: Each employer shall comply with occupational safety and health standards promulgated under this act.

29 U.S.C. § 654, 5(b): Each employee shall comply with occupational safety and health standards and all rules, regulations, and orders issued pursuant to this Act which are applicable to his own actions and conduct.

Couple the above general duty clause with the new column in the OSHA 300 log capturing Musculoskeletal Disorders in the workplace, and you can begin to see why an Ergonomic specific regulation might not be necessary!

Assistant Secretary for OSHA Dr. David Michaels commented that,

OSHA’s field staff will be looking for ergonomic hazards in their inspections and we will be providing them with the support and back-up they need to enforce under the general duty clause. In addition, we will be examining employer logs to see if MSDs are accurately reported,” illustrating the increased emphasis on recordkeeping logs, during OSHA inspections. Michaels stated that OSHA plans to “take a hard look” at employer policies that discourage injury reporting.

You have to give OSHA leadership their ‘props’…the approach is an intelligent, common-sense approach.  No big expensive fight.  Apply the regs that are there….end of story.  

What are your thoughts on OSHA’s new tact????  Agree or disagree??

If you’d like to discuss, feel free to email me at cdavis@ergonomicedge.com or 401.527.7047.

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Our ERGOLAB team are big fans of the work coming from Liberty Mutual’s Occupational Safety and Health Research facility.     Their most recent edition of their quarterly newsletter, “From Research to Reality” drills down on the topic of Occupational Fatigue; the insights surfaced in their proprietary research are eye-opening.    

At ERGOLAB, our Ergonomists and Occupational Safety & Health Engineers are often asked to assess Health & Safety risks within production environments where operations are a 24/7/365 proposition; multiple work tasks across multiple shifts.   When analyzing OSHA recordable within a facility, time and again we would see the same data patterns; injury rates increase deeper into every 8 hour shift, and higher injury rates for PM versus AM shifts.  This research from Liberty Mutual VALIDATES these patterns AND takes the insights to the next logical step; developing schedule management tools that assist Production and Manufacturing leadership in building schedules that minimize and ideally eliminate all risk.   Liberty Mutual’s new scheduling software, SIRE, takes this learning into consideration in the build out of work schedules for multi-shift environments.  At the bottom of this post we’ll provide the links to the Liberty Mutual software application SIRE!

Some of the highlights from this research;

  • The risk of injury increases dramatically after the 8th hour of shift

  • Morning shift employees have the lowest risk of injury, or “Relative Risk”
  • Afternoon shift employee risk of injury increases 15% from Morning shift risk
  • Evening Shift employee risk of injury increases by 30% from Morning shift risk
  • An employees risk of injury increases as the time between rest breaks increases!   As an example, the risk of injury DOUBLES if the time between breaks is more than 91 minutes.
  • An employee who works successive DAILY shifts – daytime or nighttime – the risk increases day to day.  The following chart details the escalation

 

The impact of occupational fatigue is very real and will influence any Ergonomic consulting initiative; particularly within a production / multi-shift environment.   As Ergonomists, it is critical we understand the complexity of the equation, this will ensure we deliver high value consulting to our clients.

Link to Liberty Mutual Newsletter and SIRE software solution; http://bit.ly/ERGOLABFatigue

Any questions specific to this post, feel free to contact me at cdavis@ergonomicedge.com or 401.527.7047.

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Who among us hasn’t had a parent tell us at one time or another to do something…”because I said so“.  No logic or rational argument. No Oprah moment of sharing and DIALOGUE with the conclusion being a collaborative solution where both parties feel respected and validated.  NOPE.  Because I said so is the conversational equivalent of the slammed door. It’s my way or the highway. 

Parents can get away with this tactic; the world is a fast-moving complex place. Sometimes ‘dialogue’ is a nice-to-have and immediate, bottom-line results are the must have.   We all understand why this happens; I am sure some of us have used the ‘because I said so’ go-to technique in a pinch….it gets results. 

In the workplace, the ‘because I said so’ technique evolved into the Command & Control style of management. This philosophy is about strong centralized leadership aggressively leading and micro-managing all aspects of the employees working existence.   This approach has fallen out of favor (thankfully) and most managers will tell you that they take an Empowerment approach to management.  Set clear goals, provide your teams with the tools to reach those goals and GET OUT OF THE WAY. (with the exception of periodic reviews, employee driven).    As consultants, the ERGOLAB team is brought in to launch new programs with new ideas around Employee Health & Safety.  When we are brought in to launch a new Ergonomics program, we often find that the current management state-of-affairs falls well short of the Empowerment nirvana.  Employees are every company’s first level of customer; if they don’t believe in you, who will?

Successful Ergonomic programs start and end with employee trust, participation and support. Following are some ideas to ensuring success of your Ergonomic program efforts – be sure not to practice ‘because I said so Ergonomics’!

1. TRANSPARENCY

Utter transparency will deliver TRUST.  When launching a new Ergonomics program; be candid about the investment.  Tell them what you expect to gain from the program and how it might impact them and their jobs.  Change is scary, especially today, with concerns about job security and cost cutting.  A few weeks ago, the ERGOLAB team completed a Pain and Discomfort survey on behalf of a leading consumer products manufacturer. Our team was asked to map the existing pain and discomfort across a community of production employees, towards identifying work tasks that trigger or amplify employee pain.  What we were not prepared for, was the level of apprehension within the survey participants. Employees thought the data would drive future lay-off decisions; rather than workplace improvements that would improve the quality of their life. 

LESSON LEARNED – over communicate the launch of a new Ergonomics program.  Surface any issues and roadblocks prior to program launch.  Build a reputation internally for consistently communicating the unvarnished truth, no more, no less. 

2. COMMUNICATION

Just as you build ‘marketing communication campaigns to woo prospects, customers, shareholders and the press; so too should you build communication strategies that address the mind share and heart share of your employee communities.  How your employees FEEL about your company, your value proposition, your management practices factor into long-term success. At ERGOLAB, we integrate Communication and Education Planning into EVERY Ergonomic program. 

3. COLLABORATION

Involve and engage affected employees in the development and on-going management of Ergonomic programs. Don’t make the mistake of building the solutions OUTSIDE of the employee community. Your employees are closet to the work itself, who better to surface ideas and suggestions for process improvement?   What form can this participation take;

  • Create a company-wide Ergonomics committee with representation from all parts of the enterprise. Health & Safety leadership should chair committee, but an equal voice and vote should be afforded all committee members.
  • Task Evaluation and Redesign should always be driven by the hands-on employee teams.
  • Employees should participate in the brainstorming and program development of Communication & Education Plan.
  • Train the Trainer programs; transfer program knowledge to internal team members. Any message is more powerful and impactful when delivered by a departmental peer.

4. REWARDS / RECOGNITION

Recognize and reward employees for support of program; catch employees engaging in the ‘right’ actions and behaviors.  Showcase and merchandise these internal success stories within the Communication Plan – make the employees the heroes in all successes. Management MUST take a back seat.

  • Expand employee job descriptions and objectives to include adherence to and support of Ergonomic initiatives.
  • Identify expanded roles within departmental teams – ensure team members receive recognition (title and compensation) for this expanded role.

Avoid the pitfalls of ‘Because I said so’ Ergonomics; expanded employee involvement and investment will ensure program success and have immediate impact of your facility’s safety and bottom line.

Any questions on this, feel free to contact our ERGOLAB team. I can be reached at cdavis@ergonomicedge.com or via phone at 401.527.7047.

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I was in a meeting with a new client last week.  “Linda” (not her real name), is the Director of Environmental Health & Safety for a growing biotech firm.   Our firm has been brought in to address a growing number of Repetitive Strain Injuries in the company’s lab facilities.  “Linda” shared her frustrations with the company’s past approach to Repetitive Motion injuries;

“We wait until something bad happens, until it’s too late to avoid injury and the costs associated with the injury. We practice Whack-a-Mole Ergonomics.  When an employee complains of pain…WHACK…only then can I get them support.   Another issue in a different part of the company, WHACK…again, band-aid the issue with a product or even bring in an Ergonomist to take a closer look at that employees issues.  We spend all our time WHACKING and reacting; we need to get ahead of the issues.” 

Linda’s Whack-a-Mole analogy describes the reality in most companies; expertise and instruction is brought in after pain &/or injury.  When the average direct cost of a Musculoskeletal injury is $25,000 (that excludes indirect costs that average 4 x that number based on OSHA data) – the cost of Whack-a-Mole Ergonomics can add up quickly.  A significant part of our Ergonomic practice is working with client’s to build a PROACTIVE Ergonomics program within their company.  Following is an Action Plan you can use today, to take control of Ergonomic issues in your company, and leave the Whack-a-Mole approach behind.  For a deeper discussion on how to implement this program you can email me at cdavis@ergonomicedge.com.

Proactive Approach to ERGONOMICS:

Action 1.0

Build a business case on the value of the PROACTIVE approach to Ergonomics.  Leverage the resources that are available from OSHA, NIOSH, National Bureau of Labor & Statistics and academia – Cornell, UCLA and others.  Using your company’s historical OSHA recordable data; build an air-tight case for why the proactive approach is better business. Focus on the bottom line impact.

Action 2.0

With your business case in hand – pitch Executive leadership and secure commitment to a long-term Ergonomic program.

Action 3.0

Ensure Ergonomics is integrated into your fiscal planning cycle; the program must be integrated into your Environmental Health & Safety strategy. The EHS community may also need to be sold on the approach; share your business case. 

Action 4.0

Identify Ergonomic consulting resource for support of activity (in most cases companies do not have resident expertise).  Potential partner should have deep experience in task assessment and redesign across all company environments (Manufacturing, Material Handling, Warehousing, Office, Laboratory, Field etc). In addition, review firm’s methodology, ensure actions measurable (as you will be asked to demonstrate program value at some point – be ready for this – put onus on consultant/partner). Talk with current and past clients. 

Action 5.0 – Getting Started

5.1 – Build a Communication Plan around the launch and ongoing merchandising of your Ergonomic program. Included in this plan – Introduction to Ergonomics training for all employees (baseline understanding and value of Ergonomics), Company Champions Program – identify internal Ergonomic program Champions by functional area.

5.2 – Launch program with company-wide Pain & Discomfort Survey. It’s purpose – isolate work environments, tasks and employee categories with injury markers. Outcome – map out high/medium/low risk tasks – permits company to prioritize and align investments

5.3 – Isolate high risk tasks for assessment & redesign – launch Ergonomics work…

Building support and positive momentum is central to getting in front of Ergonomic issues.  If you have any questions, we’re here to help!

Some valuable links to assist you in building your Ergonomics business case:

Puget Sound Human Factors & Ergonomics Society Chapter Cost Benefit Analysis Calculator  – http://bit.ly/PugetHFESCalc

Cornell Ergonomics ROI Calculator – http://bit.ly/CornellROI

OSHA eTools – Computer Workstations – http://bit.ly/OSHAeTools

NIOSH – http://bit.ly/NIOSHErgo

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Being a naturally curious person, I kicked around cyberspace, looking for guidance on blogging before I started this ERGOLAB blog. Who are the current thought leaders? Who is really using blogging and other social media, like Twitter, Facebook, Linked In for real business? Would a blog add to our customer’s experience with Ergonomic Edge (our products and consulting business) or would it be a distraction?

During my search, I surfaced the book, “Six Pixels of Separation” by Mitch Joel. I read the book cover to cover in one day, started the ERGOLAB blog, and never looked back. I recommend this book to anyone looking to understand the power of social media. The marketplace is changing, relationships, personal and professional, are being forged in new ways. Buy the book. Read the book.

SO…what does this have to do with Ergonomics? I track Mitch Joel’s Six Pixel blog daily (it is so worth the time); a recent post on the Consumer Electronics Show (CES), chatting about new trends in electronics seemed innocent enough. AND THEN WHAM, the import of Mitch’s comments hit me like the proverbial TON OF BRICKS. Our business, ERGONOMICS is going to change dramatically, because our customers are changing.

Our practice crosses many industries; we work with corporate Environmental Health & Safety (EHS) leadership to find injury drivers within any company environment. Manufacturing, Material Handling & Warehousing, Laboratory…the most common environment is the OFFICE; that magical area of cubicles, copiers and filing cabinets. Where the work is typically heads-down computing, many hours sitting in an office chair typing, talking and writing. Our Ergonomic Edge practice works with clients to design office environments that are human-friendly; provide the support, flexibility and adjustability every worker needs to maintain good ergonomic health. We market and sell Ergonomic seating and accessories products that support this work, the train employees on proper use and adjustment.

So, what Six Pixel comment triggered my epiphany? Take a look…

Our homes (like our offices) are fully connected.

In fact, as more and more devices like the iPhone, BlackBerry, laptops and netbooks take hold, all of us are (or can be) connected all of the time (and yes, this includes our cars as well). Think about it: How many people still go to a physical location to sit down and “surf the Web” in their home or office, compared to the number of people that now have laptops with wireless connections who are online wherever they are? (read the whole post – http://www.twistimage.com/blog/archives/embracing-the-new-business-of-new-media/)

The office, as we know it, is vanishing before our eyes. If you can work anywhere, at any time with the new ‘connectedness’ and new mobile tools – why is your office necessary? Office space costs real money; tricking out the office space with cubicles, desks, chairs and tools adds even more costs. Mr Corporate Bean Counter is asking that question right now…do we need to have offices when our people can work in their homes, at the kitchen table, with little or no impact on productivity?

The office will go the way of the dinosaur, the mastodon and the XFL (remember the XFL…it was the NFL but edgier?).

So….as Ergonomists, we’ll have new challenges:

  • Our purview will extend into the HOME of our corporate client’s employees.
  • No longer will a large chunk of employees all be working within a predictable, standard office environment model – now, every home environment will be different.
  • Due diligence will increase at the worker level.
  • Customization time will increase at the worker level.
  • Old tools, Ergonomic products and accessories will need to be adapted (and some will not make the cut).
  • New tools, new Ergonomic products and accessories will be invented to support this new mobile workforce.

The real challenge.   When the corporate pendulum swings from one paradigm to the next, the shift tends to stop at the extreme. EHS leadership, Safety & Health consultants & Ergonomists must ensure the remote employee is adequately supported in their alternative work environments with tools and training. There will be costs associated with this support. The corporate bean counters will need this guidance. Tools, products and training, on some levels will still be  necessary.

I am interested in your POV on this topic.

Where do you think the ‘office’ is heading?   What kinds of tools will this new worker need?

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