Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘Ergonomics’


iPad with on display keyboard

Image via Wikipedia

ERGOLAB was thrilled when Marie Claire magazine asked for our point-of-view on the potential health risks of iPad and e-reader usage. For some time we’ve been warning tablet and e-reader users on the pain, discomfort and even injury that can come from long-term device use.  We’ve gone on the record in the past…regular iPad use poses real health risks – check out our blog post “This Apple Has a Few Worms” – we agitated some Apple fans in the process.

Read Full Post »


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

Read Full Post »


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.

Read Full Post »


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.

Read Full Post »


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.

Read Full Post »


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.

Read Full Post »


This blog post was triggered by a question asked by a client during a work session last week (we are re-designing several work tasks within their work environment); she approached us (Frances Pisano our Chief Ergonomist and myself) during a break.  Her son, only 9 years old, had been complaining of pain in his hands and wrists. According to his mom, he spends hours playing his DSi, and has his own cell phone and is just getting into texting.  Her question;

“Is this an Ergonomic issue? Could my 9 year old have a Repetitive Strain Injury?   What should I do?

A recent report from the Kaiser Family Foundation confirmed what most parents already know;  kids of today are voracious consumers of new media and new technology. The average eleven year old owns a television, laptop computer, cell phone,  MP3 player, gaming system (Sony PS4, Wii)  and a hand-held game or learning device (DSi, LeapFrog).  Children are spending HOURS everyday texting, Tweeting, gaming, downloading music and watching programming.   Texting alone accounts for almost 2 hours per day!  The average number of texts per day is  more than 100! That’s a lot of keystrokes.

Gaming, texting and computing are all activities that require typing.  Small, precise movements with the wrists, hands, and fingers, particularly the thumb.  The body parts involve small muscle groups that fatigue easily and are highly susceptible to Repetitive Strain Injury (RSI).   The American Society of Hand Therapists has issued several consumer alerts, warning users of small electronic gadgets that heavy thumb use could lead to painful swelling of the sheath around the tendons in the thumb.   “Blackberry Thumb” the term popularized a few years ago to describe the pain, discomfort and damage caused by excessive texting/emailing on the popular Blackberry PDAs, is being diagnosed in younger and younger patients. 

MOM AND DAD, here’s the reality; your child needs your protection and guidance. 

1.0  BECOME AN EXPERT

Educate yourself on the Ergonomic realities surrounding the use of computers and hand-held devices.  Cornell University’s Human Factors & Ergonomics Department offers an informational web site (http://ergo.human.cornell.edu) that is a great starting point.   Their content on children and computer use will be very eye-opening.

Share this learning with your child; obviously this will be driven by their age and maturity level.  Make them a partner in this process if / when you can.

2.0  MANAGE USAGE

Take control of your child’s use of technology.  Monitor and manage your child’s use of all electronic / computing devices.   Don’t leave it up to the kid…hey THEY’RE KIDS.  They need you to make the hard choices.  Expect to be unpopular. Expect pushback.  

APPLY THE 30 MINUTE RULE.  Limit usage of any device to 30 minutes.   This will dramatically reduce risk of potential injury.   

Take a look at the body postures your child uses when computing, gaming, texting and talking.  Provide guidance on body postures and their importance. “Catch” your child in healthy body postures; recognize and reward this behaviors with extra privileges. (Except MORE TIME with their technology)

3.0  LEAD BY EXAMPLE

What tools and devices do you use for work and life?   Do you practice sound ERGONOMICS?  If your answer is NO or MAYBE….you have work to do.  Provide a great example for your child and TALK ABOUT IT.   Your kids will model, emulate your behavior. If you pay attention to these issues, they will too. 

4.0  GET INVOLVED AT THEIR SCHOOL

Other than your home environment, no other place has more impact and influence on your child’s Ergonomic health.

Get involved in your school’s Parent / teacher organizations.  Introduce the topic of Ergonomics to the agenda; push for an open discussion about how, when, where and why your kids are using electronic devices.  

5.0     LOW HANGING FRUIT – THE BACKPACK

Do you know how many books your kid is lugging around everyday?   Find out. Talk to your child’s teacher.  On average, your child should carry NO MORE than 5% of their body weight.  Following are guideline provided by the American Chiropractic Association (ACA) specific to a person’s weight and the ideal MAXIMUM backpack weight.

* No one should carry more than 25 lbs in a backpack

Invest in a quality backpack for your child.  Forgo the Hannah Montana or Dallas Cowboys backpack for a quality ERGONOMICALLY designed product, look for;

  • Smaller is better – you can’t over pack a small backpack
  • High quality rip-stop fabric
  • Wide, well- padded straps
  • Superior adjustability

 

Bottom line – your child’s Ergonomic Health is up to you. Your example, guidance and persistence will ensure their safety and well-being. 

Following are some links to valuable information:

Kaiser Family Foundation Study – http://www.kff.org/entmedia/upload/8010.pdf

International Children’s Ergonomics – http://www.icefonline.org/

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »

%d bloggers like this: