Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Our ERGOLAB team spends a lot of time working in office environments; the day man met PC was a glorious one for workplace accountability – nothing like a digital trail to keep things on the up and up….not so great for the human body.  Why?  As work tasks became more and more automated, our work days became more sedentary. 

Our body was not designed to sit for 8 hours a day; we’re all familiar with the Ergonomics axiom, “the best body posture (position) is the NEXT body posture (position).  Our bodies were designed to hunting, gathering, foraging for food, and sometimes running away VERY quickly when WE became the potential ‘food’ (…and NO, battling the crowds at your local farmer’s market does not qualify as ‘foraging’).   We need movement, we need a variety of position and posture to maintain good body health and flexibility. 

In the past, corporate Health & Safety leadership often overlooked the needs and risks within their office environments; cubicle dwellers don’t use pneumatic equipment, drive a forktruck or work with hazardous materials. Accidents and injuries occurred in other places in the enterprise, except the occasional slip, trip or fall, the office harbored few (or so they thought) risks.  Now, with 20+ years of data  and learning behind us, we understand the very real and very expensive risks associated with unmanaged office ergonomics.  With the average cost of ONE musculoskeletal disorder averaging $25,000 in direct costs and 5 to 8 times that number in indirect costs…a passive approach to office ergonomics is NOT good business. 

Still…old myths and misconceptions in Office Ergonomics die hard. 

Misconception #1

The right chair will solve ALL your problems.  WRONG!   A personal pet peeve and a myth that must DIE (and remember, we SELL ergonomic chairs and tools at www.ergonomicedge.com ).  The office chair, while very important, is one element within an INTEGRATED Ergonomic solution.  Office system manufacturers spend millions to reinforce the belief that a chair (more importantly, their chair) is the answer.  There is no magic chair. Or for that matter keyboard tray, mouse, docking station or document holder.  Products are tools our ERGOLAB Ergonomists use, case by case, client by client, to build an Ergonomic solution, properly designed, personally adjusted, with adequate employee education and product training (you’d be amazed how many companies have NO IDEA how their existing chairs adjust…).  At ERGOLAB, we lead with Ergonomic guidance first…products are a very very distant second.  

Misconception #2

Repetitive Motion is the #1 cause of ergonomic injury.   WRONG!    Yes, repetitive ‘Out-of-Neutral’ motions can and do cause injuries. An example would be anyone who works on spreadsheets for long periods of their day; these folks do A LOT of cutting and pasting within the spreadsheets.  Over the long term, overuse can lead to pain, discomfort and injury.   What surprises most corporate Health & Safety Managers, is that STATIC  “Out-of-Neutral” body postures cause far more injuries….we are a generation of leaners and reachers.   Sitting in a chair for hours at a stretch invites poor postures; next time you are in a lengthy meeting, check out the body positions of everyone around you…..leaning, slouching, etc.  All positions that put extreme stress and pressure on our bodies.   

This underscores the value of careful, thoughtful office design; the cubicle footprint is often driven by ECONOMIC imperatives, rather than ERGONOMIC imperatives.  Think  adjustability of worksurfaces, up/down, in/out.  Make sure all employee tools fall within the REACH ENVELOPE…don’t ask an employee to reach and lean to talk on the phone or lean forward to view a monitor.    

Misconception #3

Office Ergonomics is a ‘hard sell’ in these tough economic times.   WRONG!   Now is precisely the time to integrate Office Ergonomics into your Health & Safety plans for your next fiscal year.  Let’s face it, everyone is working with reduced headcount. This means your current work staff needs to do more…..MUCH MORE….with less.  You need these employees to stay healthy and productive.  Beyond this, Worker’s Compensation costs are soaring…a proactive Ergonomics approach is about preempting injury. Fewer injuries, fewer claims, lower PREMIUMS.   In tough economic times, you can’t afford NOT to invest in Office Ergonomics. 

Misconception #4

Every employee needs the same Ergonomic tools.  WRONG!      Ergonomic solutions are personal; an employees height and body size, health conditions, work functions and personal habits all contribute to and inform an Ergonomic solution.   A good starting place for 90% of the employee population is an adjustable Ergonomic chair and quality adjustable keyboard – but REMEMBER – the workstation MUST be designed with the employee’s idiosyncratic needs in mind. As before, an Ergonomic solution. There is no one size fits all.

 Need some guidance in creating and implementing an Ergonomics program for your business?   Give us a call – 401-527-7047, or email me at cdavis@ergonomicedge.com.


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.


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.


Great research from the Gartner Group!  Gartner has been tracking the acceptance and use of new technologies; in particular, the acceptance of newer touchscreen technology.    What was once the fantasy of the Star Trek and Star Wars generations (I am a Star Wars kid – Star Trek was already in re-runs – REALLY)  is now reality; Kindle, iPod, iPhone, iPad…the list goes on and on. 

Touchscreen is a game-changer that increases user productivity.    What’s surprising, is the slow adoption of BUSINESS to adopt the new technology.  According to Gartner,  

The immediate productivity gains promised by the flood of touch-enabled devices coming to market in 2010 will be slow to materialize in the enterprise.

For more on the Gartner research follow this link –  http://www.gartner.com/it/page.jsp?id=1336913

I asked our ERGOLAB team about the growing touchscreen use; some food for thought about the Ergonomic implications;

  • Parents should continue to proactively manage their children’s use of ALL technology, regardless of interface (keyboard, mouse or touchscreen).   The inherent risk of long-term use of computing or gaming tools are about body postures while using ANY technology.  Out-of-neutral body postures over time contribute to pain, discomfort and eventual injury.  Parents, for more guidance on your kids and avoiding Ergonomic issues – check out our blog post   http://bit.ly/ERGOLABKids
  • Any touchscreen requires the user to sit within arm’s reach of the device.  Simply replacing a traditional computer monitor with a touch-enabled screen is not acceptable.  In most cases, this new screen will be outside of the acceptable ‘Reach envelope’. What is the Reach Envelope?

The following tool (image provided by John Wick of J&J Consulting)  is used to layout and organize seated workstations to ensure that there are no extreme posture requirements and to ensure that the individual is primarily assuming neutral working postures.

The point of operation should be within the primary zone (within 14”) “where the hands do the work”.  The location of tools (phone books, files, stapler, phone, calculator, etc.) can cause extreme ranges of motion in the wrist, elbows, shoulders and back and should be placed within the secondary zone in order to eliminate extreme positions (within 24”) of the individual and laterally 45 degrees from the shoulder (figure 1) (1). This criterion is based on anthropometric data representing 90% of the population.  Those either under 4’11” or over 6’2” may need further accommodations.

  • Most of the new touch-enabled tools are mobile, hand held devices.   Our recent blog posts on the Apple iPad scratch the surface of the Ergonomic issues related to this new category of touch-enabled tools. 

The Apple iPad has all the Ergonomic challenges associated with the laptop AND takes another step in the WRONG DIRECTION.  Typing on the iPad touchscreen while the iPad rests on a flat surface will force the neck into more extreme static neck flexion or extension depending on the users posture. Eye strain is also a risk.  TRANSLATED – typing on the iPad for any stretch of time will create neck pain, possible eye strain and could cause injury. 

The ability to attach a keyboard to the iPad (the iPad Dock) was a good move by Apple; but no consideration was given into the lack of adjustability of the height of the screen once it is attached to the iPad Dock. This was a missed opportunity by Apple to address head-on the Ergonomic issues related to laptop use (these issues are well-documented).  The ability to telescope the iPad up and down would allow the iPad to be adjusted to the proper height for the user, ensuring neutral neck postures and subsequently, comfortable viewing.

What are your thoughts on touchscreen technology and the Ergonomic implications?  We’d love to hear from you.

If you’d like to connect directly on this blog post or any Ergonomic issue, I can be reached by phone 401.527.7047 or e-mail cdavis@ergonomicedge.com.


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.


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.


OSHA’s plan to expand workplace injury reporting has rattled quite a few cages.  The prospect of adding a column (yes, a column) to the existing OSHA 300 log has business up in arms.   The enhanced report would isolate  musculoskeletal disorders (or MSD) injuries.  

NOTE – The term MSD is used to describe a category of Ergonomic-related injuries that affect the musculoskeletal system; there is no single diagnosis for MSDs. It is believed that OSHA’s intent with this expansion in reporting is to determine whether there is a pattern of ergonomic-related injuries in certain jobs or work tasks.

Could reporting lead to regulation?   Maybe.  Regulation would be a stretch right now; Democratic leadership is playing rope-a-dope on so many fronts – healthcare reform to name one – we can’t imagine the Labor Department is anxious to ‘rile up’ business with the introduction of Ergonomic regulation.

Reporting….regulation…WHATEVER.   Our ERGOLAB team’s mission is to build a sound business case as to why Ergonomics MUST be a central element in every business’ Safety & Health strategy.  Ergonomics should not be a business ‘like to have’; Ergonomics should be a ‘must have’ because it makes good  business sense.   Shift the discussion from Reporting or Regulation to the RISK of doing nothing AND the Return-on-Investment or ROI of a proactive strategy.

At a client meeting yesterday, our ERGOLAB team was presenting findings from a facility-wide Pain & Discomfort survey.  This type of survey is a great starting point for any company looking to baseline their current ‘RISK’ related to Musculoskeletal Disorders or MSDs. Employees are asked to rate, from 1 to 5 (low to high) their level of pain &/or discomfort across 38 areas of the body. In addition, they are also asked to identify what work tasks or activities trigger or amplify their pain.  Our deliverables; a map of the quantity and severity of employee pain &/discomfort and insights into the tasks that may be the cause of or contributing to employee injury. This details the existing RISK of pain symptoms across the employee community; Ergonomic and Human Factors research (and common sense) tells us that if no change is made to the current work environment, employee pain will continue to escalate and injury is very possible. 

Following is a view of the RISK progression of ‘unaddressed’ employee pain and discomfort over time.   Get proactive with your company’s approach to Ergonomics; focus your energies on the ROI of Ergonomics.

As always, we are here to help!  Contact us at the ERGOLAB with any questions, or if you’d like to discuss scheduling a Pain and Discomfort survey at your facility. Email me at cdavis@ergonomicedge.com or call 401 – 527 – 7047.

%d bloggers like this: