Hey, everyone. This is going to be hopefully a real informal post about my ergonomic experiences the past two weeks. So lets dive right in. Last week I took the CEAS I: Ergonomics Assessment Certification Workshop to get my CEAS (Certified Ergonomics Assessment Specialist) credentials, which was followed up by attending the 16th Annual Applied Ergonomics Conference these past few days. So to say the least, I learned about ergonomics and then truly learned about ergonomics. I want to share mainly a few of the things that popped out these past two weeks.
One of the main reasons I love the concept of ergonomics is because it revolves around preventing injury. It’s about making a work environment that fits the employee while reducing their fatigue, stress, and risk of injury. The most important thing to remember is that we are all of different shapes and sizes, so a one size fits all workplace design does not work. Ergonomic setup needs to be individualized, and that doesn’t mean using a tool or buying a chair that’s labeled “ergonomic.” The practice of ergonomics is very detailed and after the things I saw this week, it is highly engineering oriented. But we as physical therapists can surely be a part of it.
Sitting vs. Standing
So there has been a lot of talk recently about the benefits of standing instead of sitting all day. Well, I’m sorry to tell you that there is not any strong research to support this, and none of the professional ergonomists are recommending to stand all day long. But what they do recommend is being ACTIVE during your workday and taking “ergo breaks.”
During one of the conference sessions, John Kerst shared “5 Ways to Make Your Desk Job Less Sedentary.”
- Alternative Workstation (Sit to stand or lean to stand)
- Coffee & Water Cup Size (Decreasing coffee size or increasing water, more bathroom trips)
- Try Walking Meetings (Said to increase brain activity)
- Integrate Technology Assist (Step counter, Fitbit, alarms to get up)
- Vary Your Posture
- 20 minutes of leaning/sitting
- 8 minutes of active standing (weight shifting)
- 2 minutes of walking around)
- Education (Increase knowledge deficits on posture and physical fitness)
“Ergo breaks” can consist of getting up and moving around, as well as targeted stretches depending on your occupation.
Work in the Perfect Zone!
Another speaker, Ben Zavitz, gave 10 “Everyday Ergonomic Solutions.”
- Get things off the floor
- Raise the employee
- Use a wheel or roller
- Lighten the load (material substitution or weight distribution)
- Use mechanical assistance/ leverage
- Tilt the workstation
- Extend the tool
- Use ergonomically engineered tools (it’s the features, not the name)
- Daily oiling and preventative maintenance
- Design hands-free options
Education needs to be blended, especially when training for operations and safety. Kent Hatcher’s presentation, “Utilizing Blended Learning to Provide Effective Ergonomics Training,” pointed out the deficits in training an employee exclusively by computer-based technology or classroom setting. Practice makes perfect. He shared the 70:20:10 rule from the Center for Creative Leadership. Learning is 70% hands-on problem solving, 20% feedback and networking, and 10% classroom/ coursework.
Every session that I attended and every speaker that I listen to had one thing in common, and that was addressing the issue early will yield the greatest outcomes. If a job looks like it may be harmful, puts an employee in an awkward position, or requires continuous repetition, make adjustments before an injury occurs.
There was also a big focus on wellness and the implementation of various types of programs within companies around the world. Being an area that I wish to practice in, there will be many future posts regarding this topic. I hope you found some of this information interesting. All the credit goes to the presenters of the 16th Annual Applied Ergonomics Conference and CEAS instructors.
Thanks for reading!
- Patrick Berner, SPT, CEAS