Ergonomics & Injury Prevention

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As an employer, whether you conduct your ergonomic assessments in house or contract a professional ergonomic specialist to come in, you want to ensure that you are saving your time and money where possible, while still preventing costly work related injuries.

 

Unless your company is committed to a strong preventative ergonomic program and has budgeted for mass individual ergonomic assessments, you are probably not offering all of your 50 office staff ergonomic assessments. Instead, the compromise is usually reached by providing assessments in reaction to those employees who have identified an issue or the ergonomic risk factors are obvious.

 

In either case, you are addressing ergonomics in your workplace and you want to know that you money is being spent wisely. Each ergonomic assessment usually results in recommendations for repositioning equipment, teaching new work behaviour, adjusting furniture and in some cases it means purchasing new equipment or furniture. Often employers link ergonomic assessments with having to spend money, instead of looking at the long term savings the assessments bring, preventing injury claims, employee lost time and retraining, not to mention some assessments include no or very  low cost solutions.

 

An  Office Ergonomic  Survey is a great way to prioritize those employees who need their workstations assessed the most. It also can be used to screen your employees for those who might be at risk of developing a musculoskeletal injury and to prioritize those who are already dealing with these associated symptoms and may be incurring regular sick time due to their pain.

 

Resistance to these surveys comes from fear that these surveys will indeed identify many ergonomic risk factors that the employer will then have to spend money on to solve. It should be made clear that including  the employees in the process will instil loyalty, foster improved employee engagement and let  staff know that management does care about their health. You can expect a rise in complaints at the onset of any ergonomic program, as word spreads that the company may be willing to spend money on new furniture.  It's what I call the preschooler "I want a new ball too" phenomenon that strikes employees when they hear that their co-worker got a new chair, but the risk identifiers and complainers will settle down as the novelty wears off. The survey allows a starting spot for your ergonomic program focus, it does not promise anything, other than your attention to ergonomics in the workplace.

 

The survey can be customized for your current office equipment set up  and can include information about the workstation, the chairs, the equipment and the workflow, to generate answers that will help you in identifying the risk factors that need addressing and those employees most at risk.

 

The following is an example of a short survey I created for a company of 50 office employees, who wanted to offer assessments to their employees but budget limitations meant they couldn't do everyone's in the first year. Feel free to reformat and customize this survey to your workplace  ergonomic goals, so employees are engaged in the process, know you care and might even offer solutions you had not thought of to save money and prevent injuries at work!

 

Remember that the interpretation of this survey relies on the evaluator having knowledge of office ergonomic guidelines and you will want to include your safety officer, or ergonomics specialist. Please email me if you would like a copy of our ergonomics guidelines and tips sheet at marnie@enablingaccess.ca.

 

Marnie Courage, OT Reg.(MB)

Managing Driector 

Enabling Access

 

[Company Name] Ergonomic Survey

1. Do you have any of the following symptoms of pain or discomfort while sitting at your workstation?


   Numbness or tingling in legs or feet           yes        no

   Numbness or tingling in arms or hands    yes        no

   Pain or discomfort in neck or upper back   yes        no

   Pain or discomfort in low or mid back         yes        no

   Pain or discomfort in the arms or hands    yes        no

Other:____________________________________________________________________   


2. Do you find that your chair is comfortable   yes         no               If no:

    Is your chair adjustable in seat height and depth?                          yes      no

    Does your chair's back rest adjust in height and recline?              yes      no

    Are your arm rests adjustable in height and width ?                        yes      no

    Is your chair adjustable in seat height and depth?                           yes      no

    Are your feet flat on the floor or footrest?                                             yes      no

 

3.  If using the phone frequently, do you have a head set? yes      no

 

4. If using a built in  or external keyboard tray, are both mouse and keyboard positioned at the same level?        yes       no

 

5. With your keyboard and mouse both on the desk or keyboard tray are you able to position the tray or your chair height so that your elbows are bent at 90 degrees?     yes       no

 

6. With a monitor stand, phone books or built in monitor height adjustability, are you able to adjust your monitor height so you are viewing the top 1/3 of the screen when looking straight ahead?         yes      no 

 

Other ergonomic concerns or possible solutiosn to risk factors in your work area:

____________________________________________________________________________________ __________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Comments

Bruce on Aug 9, 2011 5:26 AM
An informed & proactive approach is always the best approach. Unfortunately spending money up front to save even more money in the future seems to run counter to some deep psychological loss aversion biases.

To add to the future costs saved by early ergonomic intervention, a lost time workers' compensation claim, in Ontario at least, can have significant long term cost implications in the employers WCB experience rating. These costs can be quantified (and assuming 1 lost time claim isn't unreasonable) and used to support early ergonomic interventions. Survey use would be an excellent way to 'find' potential claims and prioritize accordingly.

An excellent idea and hopefully one that is embraced by the business community.
Marnie Courage on Aug 9, 2011 5:44 AM
Thanks for your comment Bruce. WCB rates are definitely a tangible outcome measure for employers to set their scopes on reducing, through such proactive measures as ergonomic surveys. I have assisted more than a handful of champion companies in Manitoba implement a survey, and they have found it helpful in prioritizing their ergonomic energy. I would love to hear about other proactive approaches you have had success with.

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