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Posts Tagged ‘Work’


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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The primary objective of American business is profit.  Profit determines winners and losers.   Whoever makes the most money, WINS.   (note – I believe in the purity of the profit imperative….to quote Gordon Gekko from the film Wall Street; “Greed is good. Greed works”   Greed employs  people, builds nations, is the catalyst for innovation.)

That’s why I cannot get my head around why American business is so against a closer look at workplace injuries like Cumulative Trauma Disorders, Musculoskeletal Disorders and Repetitive Strain Injuries.  The data is clear; the costs associated with these injuries are significant, i.e. they are a drain on company resources…a drain on PROFITS.  The costs to proactively address injury driven by poor Ergonomic design are lower than the reactive costs of worker injury; workers compensation, healthcare treatment etc. 

So..simple  math.  Embrace a proactive Ergonomic strategy; INCREASE company profits. 

Still, American business hesitates.  

Glenn Spencer, executive director of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s Workforce Freedom Initiative, said Solis so far has been willing to listen to some of his group’s concerns. But he worries most about the possibility that Labor officials will try to revive costly ergonomics rules. Such rules would force businesses to redesign work spaces to protect employees from repetitive stress injuries.   (Source – http://abcnews.go.com/Business/wirestory?id=9460816&page=3)

A nudge is necessary; that nudge coming from Labor Secretary Hilda Solis.  After 1 year in her cabinet position, Secretary Solis continues to turn up the heat on business.    In her words,

there’s a new sheriff in town.

In 12 months, Secretary Solis has done more to improve workplace safety, than the former administration accomplished in 8 years.   More inspectors, penalties with teeth and over 90 planned regulatory enhancements.  Business needed a wake-up call; mission accomplished.  

Labor Secretary Solis’ report card for 2009?   A+++++++++++++++++++++++++++

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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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Muscle and Joint Pain Costs European Economies Billions in Time and Money

“A new study finds that musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) account for nearly half (49 percent) of all absences from work and 60 percent of permanent work incapacity in the European Union. These and other socio-economic consequences of suffering from poor health due to muscle and joint pain represent an estimated cost to society in Europe of up to €240 billion.”

Interesting. The EU is capable of pulling off a deep dive across multiple countries and employment cultures and we in the US, continue to resist getting real visibility to the societal costs and impacts of MSD’s (Musculoskeletal Disorders) or Repetitive Strain Injuries. 

Take a look.  EHS Managers, use this data to build your case for an aggressive Ergonomics program in 2010.  We can help!

Muscle and Joint Pain Costs European Economies Billions in Time and Money.

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Remember that scene in Poltergeist? The TV goes all fuzzy and the little blond girl, Carol Anne gets that blanked out expression on her face and announces They’re Here…!!”   I can imagine US employers are feeling that same eerie, creepy feeling right now about OSHA’s  new movement into the Ergonomic space. 

This type of employer concern and pushback should be expected (check out article link from Business Insurance) – business sees  OSHA’s push for increased reporting of MSD’s (Musculoskeletal Disorders) in the workplace as a very SLIPPERY SLOPE.   First reporting, then perhaps…..REGULATION?   The R Word.  

Take a deep breath.  This is only about data collection right now…and to bottom line it, this data is necessary. Cumulative trauma disorders / MSD’s have been unreported and under-reported by American business for years.  Visibility to the aggregate impacts and costs of this injury category will open some eyes; MSD injuries drives down America’s productivity and drives up healthcare costs. 

Business fears that increased MSD scrutiny will add an additional  layer of cost is understandable but unfounded.  Proactive, ergonomic interventions reduce injury and lower costs.  ERGONOMICS will reduce their costs.  Get it out in the open, document what is there and deal with it. 

Face it….They’re HERE. 

Employers wary of changes in approach, focus at OSHA | Business Insurance.

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I miss the old acronyms. Remember VHS, VCR?  or even older, LP?  (ok, I am actually from the cassette generation, but my parents had LPs.)  Now a new acronym has emerged on the scene…..LED.  OK OK, this really isn’t a new acronym, LED technology or light-emitting diodes have been around for over 100 years. (or so Wikipedia tells me). HOWEVER…for the average consumer, LED just hit the radar.  The hot new tech gift this holiday season…the LED television. Big, ultrathin and sexy.  Life without an LED television is impossible.  (LOL). Or so the marketing types want us all to believe.

In the world of office products and ergonomics, LED tech means an evolution in lighting fixtures and solutions for YOUR office workstation.  Weird, but this is something I CAN get excited about (and most of our clients too). LED lights use less energy, emit less heat and are LEED credit eligible (for those who are counting).   LED lighting is BUSINESS SEXY. 

What is business sexy?   Business sexy is something that makes the CFO go weak in the knees.  Business sexy is about the bottom line.  Business sexy makes everyone in the enterprise happy.

Several Ergonomic product manufacturers have new LED products to offer – we like Workrite’s Astra and Soleil task lights and their really cool (literally, it’s cool to the touch, no 2nd degree burns by moving the fixture) Verano under-mount magnetic light strip.    All have been awarded our BUSINESS SEXY stamp of approval (and from our clients too).  I think I am going to create a Business Sexy stamp for future use.

We await the arrival of Humanscale’s Element LED lamps.  The product is not available YET, but the chatter is very positive. (see link below for Wired magazine POV on Humanscale)  All we know is that Workrite has set the bar VERY HIGH….wait and see if Humanscale can dislodge the Astra, Soleil and Verano from our hearts.  

Wired Fetish: Ultimate office accessories

For more info on Workrite Astra, Soleil and Verano product details – http://www.workriteergo.com/products/lighting.asp

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With budgets tightening, dramatic reductions in headcount AND increasing workers compensation costs, companies everywhere are looking for an EDGE.   Something as simple as employee education on the use of ergonomic products can make an impact. Take a look at a recent article from Medical News Today on the findings of a study published in the October Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, official publication of the American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine (ACOEM).    Proactive Approach To Ergonomics Reduces Pain In Office Workers.

Employee training is a great start.  Make sure your employees understand HOW an ergonomic product, a chair or keyboard tray, should be used.  Ergonomic products and related training only scratch the surface of what ergonomics can deliver. 
What every EHS Manager should be thinking about, where are the clusters of MSD’s (Musculoskeletal Disorders) within my enterprise? What categories of workers – office, warehouse, laboratory, production – are manifesting similar injuries or complaints?   An Ergonomic task assessment can identify and quantify INJURY DRIVERS and through the redesign process, eliminate these drivers.   Avoid injury BEFORE it happens. 
 
How to sell an investment in proactive Ergonomics to your executive leadership?  The average direct cost of an MSD is $25,000 and the indirect costs estimated at six times that figure, or $150,000; the math is easy.    For example, in an office environment an end-to-end ergonomic solution; assessment, tools, accessories and education  for an employee would cost approximately $1,000.    The impacts within a warehouse or laboratory environment are even more compelling.   
 

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