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Archive for the ‘Wellness’ Category


Do you know where your employees are?

Ask any business owner or executive about the impacts of Healthcare costs on their business and you will get an EARFUL.  Healthcare accounts for 15.4% of payroll costs…and that percentage is increasing.  Today’s business enterprise spends significant time and resource energy on the aggressive management of that number.  Very little if any savings will come from that number (unless REAL healthcare reform happens; don’t hold your breath for it)…today the exercise is about holding the line.   Just keep treading water.

An unexplored SAVINGS opportunity does exist; it’s not as sexy or polarizing as healthcare costs BUT it can drive very real cost savings.  

Did you know that the total cost of unplanned employee work absences – not vacation or personal time – represents 9.2% of the average company’s payroll expense? (Source – Marsh Mercer 2008 online survey http://www.kronos.com/AbsenceAnonymous/)

Why?

Absences impact your business in three ways:

  • Direct costs for the benefits or wages paid to employees while absent,
  • Indirect costs for lost productivity or the replacement worker expenses to “cover”
    absences and minimize loss of productivity, and
  • Administrative expenses, whether due to internal staffing and overhead, or to vendor
    services.

The impact on Productivity is even more alarming:

Absenteeism or “Incidental unplanned absences” result in the highest net loss of productivity per day (i.e., missed or postponed work not being covered by others): 21%versus 15% for planned absences and 17% for extended absences.

Absenteeism is a MANAGEABLE cost driver and a sound Ergonomics strategy can help.

How?

Trapped in that 9.2% number are unreported employee pain and discomfort issues.    In many cases, ERGONOMIC workplace issues are the cause of this pain and discomfort.  A recent study from Spain estimates that > 6.4 million people take an unplanned absence each week citing muscular-skeletal problems as the reason.  Out of these, 40.9 per cent of the work force experiencing lower back pain, 40 per cent with neck pain, and 22.9 per cent with upper back pain.

Poor environmental and task design within the work environment drives this pain and discomfort.   ERGONOMICS can help. 

Do you have an in-house program that documents absenteeism drivers?   Probably not.   Our ERGOLAB team works with business leadership to build a proactive approach to absenteeism through;

  • Employee pain and discomfort surveying,
  • Task assessment and redesign consulting and
  • Ergonomics education and training

Interested ?  We’d love to hear from you – fpisano@ergonomicedge.com or 401 529 8398

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Yesterday was a good day.  The ERGOLAB team is working with a leading luxury goods manufacturer and marketer to address high risk tasks within production facilities.  The program is moving forward nicely, our redesign is in test phase, solution validation is right around the corner.  Company A is thrilled with the outcome.  

The day BEFORE yesterday…that day wasn’t quite as good.  Similar work on behalf of a different ERGOLAB client continues to stall out, lose momentum and  focus.  This task redesign work lauched months before the above mentioned case study, yet we have little to show for it.  Company B is frustrated, and rightly so.   

At first blush, the clients are very similar; industry leaders, global brands, organizational commitment to Ergonomic practices.  So….why the difference?  Why is Company A so much further along that Company B?   

One word.  EMPOWERMENT.  

At Company A, the culture encourages and rewards employee ‘intrapreneurship’ (think entrepreneurship BUT inside a company structure, not out).  Have a new idea to streamline a process and improve productivity?  Pitch the idea to your up line manager.  Company A employees are expected to partner with management in the continuous improvement initiatives of the company.  As consultants, ERGOLAB gets to partner with client employees who are engaged and invested in the program and it’s outcomes.  There is nothing better than working within a client community of people with pride, enthusiasm, and passion for their work and workplace.   Empowered employees make us look good.  

Company B does not practice an Empowerment management philosophy.  Employee roles are narrowly defined.  Suggestions are accepted, but rarely acted upon.  The employees want to participate in making their workplace a better place, but the current management style doesn’t allow for that type of a role.  Driving positive change at Company B is a challenge; as our ERGOLAB methodologies require employee participation and collaboration in all phases of solution development and testing.   Our biggest hurdle is often MANAGEMENT; their need to control and edit employee involvement and access to ALL the information is a real roadblock. 

So…what about your company?   As an employer, have you created an environment that encourages employee empowerment?      

To paraphrase Lao Tzu in the Tao of Leadership; 

The leader is best… 

When his work is done, his aim fulfilled,  

The people say, ‘We did it ourselves.

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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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In many parts of the world, the corner tavern, bar, tap-room, saloon or pub  is the place to be on a Friday night. The work week has come to a close and it’s time to catch-up with friends, hoist a few, have some fun. (Yes, to those interested, strains of Billy Joel’s Piano Man are playing in my head).

 When bellying up to the bar to order that next round, take a look at the design and layout of the space.  My guess, your local pub does not look that much different from the bar around the corner or around the world. Why?  Bar design is iconic and time-tested. Centuries of learning have gone into the placement of pub elements.  At the center of the design rationale;  ERGONOMICS.

Ergonomics is the science of designing an environment to address and fit human needs; while it is more often applied in a work environment (ergo means work in Latin),  in the case of a tavern environment – it is about creating a space of physical support and comfort.  Ever notice how easy is it to lose track of time in a pub?  It’s not just the Guinness or martini causing this time warp; the environment is designed to wrap you in a cocoon. Warm, cozy, comfortable, leaving the pub is like leaving the womb. 

Let’s start with the height of the bar; 42 inches. Why? That height is the most ergonomic height for a top that services both the seated and standing user.  Seated in a 29″ to 31″ bar stool, a 42″ bar counter is ideal for the seated bar patron. It is also a comfortable height for most people to lean against.  Additionally the bar top is in easy reach of a standing person so they can set their food and drink down without leaning over.

Take a look at the foot rest at the base of the bar. Not just a decorative element, this footrest permits the standing patron to alter their stance and posture from time to time while standing at the bar for long periods of time.  An old Ergonomics adage “the best position, is the NEXT position”; this footrest provides standing customers with a multitude of options over time.   This means you can STAY and imbibe longer, more comfortably.

So, next time you are relaxing at your favorite neighborhood watering hole, remember, the design is no accident.  Ergonomics had something to do with it.

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With 2009 in the rearview mirror, my thoughts turn to the promise of 2010. A New Year is like newly fallen snow; gorgeous, pristine, undefiled, PERFECT.  Full of promise and potential; 2010 awaits each of us…what do you plan on doing this year?  My guess is that health, family, love, and work are all high on the list; more this (e.g., exercise), less that (e.g., body fat).  Our ERGOLAB team would like to offer up some resolution suggestions specific to your ERGONOMIC well-being in 2010.   Embracing our suggestions will improve your health and make you a  better partner, parent, friend, or employee.

Ergonomic Resolution #1:

Request an ERGONOMIC EVALUATION from my employer.  Musculoskeletal Disorders (or MSD’s) like carpal tunnel or tendonitis, can be the result of the cumulative trauma that comes from long-term use of a badly designed home or office workstation.  Secure a baseline assessment from a qualified Ergonomist; those back and head aches that you suffered from in 2009 could be eradicated by some simple workstation adjustments. 

Ergonomic Resolution #2:

Know the risks!  Increase your own knowledge and understanding of Ergonomic risk factors.  In the US, OSHA (the Occupational Safety and Health Adminstration) invests millions of your tax dollars in building ‘how-to’ guides on Ergonomics research and education. Take advantage of these free tools.  Many times, a low or no-cost improvement will drive huge benefit to you and your long-term health.  Here is a link to OSHA’s guidance and quick tips on computer workstation design; http://www.osha.gov/SLTC/etools/computerworkstations/index.html.

Ergonomic Resolution #3:

EXERCISE, EXERCISE, EXERCISE.  Regular exercise increases the body’s resistance to injury from bad Ergonomic design.  A strong body is more resilient; increase your core body strength to improve body posture.  This resolution isn’t about fitting into that size 4 black dress; strength training and regular stretching is the best prescription for good Ergonomic health.

Ergonomic Resolution #4:

Ok, we’re going to say it…buy a GREAT truly Ergonomic office chair.  Yes, we sell chairs at our Ergonomic Edge web site (www.ergonomicedge.com)  Yes, this recommendation might seem self-serving.  HOWEVER…research tells us that American spend an average of  8+ hours a day sitting at a desk.  You spend as much time in your chair as you do your bed at night.   Your office chair matters.    If you can’t afford a quality Ergonomic office chair new, scour the after-market for a great brand used.

What to look for in a quality Ergonomic Office Chair:

– ADJUSTABILITY.  No chair alone is Ergonomic.   The ability to adjust to you, your body and tasks you are asking your body to perform is what makes a chair ERGONOMIC.   The chair should provide on-the-fly adjustment in the armrests (up and down, in and out), seat pan (in and out, up and down), seat height (up and down), lumbar region (can be manual or automatic).  What is most important; the chair must get you to a neutral posture for the task at hand; computing, gaming, talking on the phone etc. 

– Quality Construction.  The selected manufacturer should provide a comprehensive warranty on all elements on the chair, particularly the adjustment mechanism. Our favorite chair manufacturer, Humanscale, offers a 15 year warranty on their adjustment mechanisms.  We have clients who have used the same chair for years.

Happy New Year to one and all.  The ERGOLAB team wishes all of you the best in 2010.  We resolve to keep sharing our ideas and Ergonomic guidance in 2010; we look forward to your questions and comments in the coming year. 

Good Health!

ERGOLAB team,

Frances, Cyndi, and Rich….

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OK Mr. Employer. Let’s face it, now in the US, you hold most of the cards in the employer / employee power balance.  Employment insecurity is everywhere and people are smart enough to keep their heads down, ask for little  and work hard during times like these.   The bar is set very low now for American employers. As with all things, this too shall pass.  What goes down, goes back up…and the dance starts all over again.

What does this have to do with Ergonomics?   

A new survey carried out by The Office Exhibition has shown that almost 90 percent of office workers regard the design and layout of their office as affecting their level of motivation. Despite this, around 50 percent said that they had never had any sort of workspace assessment.  

Soon, very soon, high-caliber knowledge workers will once again be a valued resource to corporate America; a proactive Ergonomic strategy will ensure your enterprise is the employer of choice in within your industry.  

MiddleEastEvents.com -Survey Shows The Office Environment Is A Key Motivator For Staff – So Follow These Top Ergonomic Tips To Make Sure You Get It Right.

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We’re very excited about Safco’s AlphaBetter children’s desk. Designed by an elementary school teacher who was frustrated with existing desks / seating solutions – AlphaBetter makes sense.  Kids can sit or stand, the worksurface adjusts quickly and easily.  The swinging footrest is so smart.     Take a look at the NY Times article on the impact the product has made in one school district!

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/02/25/us/25desks.html

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