Ergonomics: Prevention vs. Intervention

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If you’ve heard it once, you’ve heard it dozens of times from prospective clients: “ If we broadcast  that we are willing to provide ergonomic evaluations on a preventive basis, then everyone will want one and then what will we do!? It could be expensive!” And while in a strange and seemingly budget conscious way, this makes some sense – after all, budgets are critical-you can’t help but want to say: “But that is exactly the point! In the long term that is the exact policy you want to implement because, while you may have an initial spike in requests, in the end a preventive approach to ergonomics is, pardon the pun, just what the doctor ordered!”

And while the climate has changed over the past decade, it is still too often the case that “prevention” only comes after “intervention”, meaning: “we just had an RSI worker’s comp case that cost a lot of money and the powers that be want to make sure that this does not happen again!”. Of course, except for the previously mentioned injury case, we say “Bravo! Let’s get started taking care of your folks.”

But are there ways to help forestall the necessity of claiming injured staffers before clients jump into action? In reality, they may think that they are already dealing with the issue:

“We have our insurance carrier provide on-line education and evaluations as part of our policy.”

“If someone is experiencing discomfort, we send facilities to check their workstation.” “We just bought new ergo chairs for everyone.”

And the list goes on.  I am neither demeaning nor belittling the client for taking any of these actions. In many cases it might do the trick. But, when it does not do the trick for some, that is where the exposure lies and when both the employee and the company can “feel the pain.”

And in today’s information and digital age, there is no shortage of resources for companies to avail themselves of in order to navigate the ergo landscape. In truth, there are so many resources now, as compared to 10-15 years ago, that it may seem daunting to sift through them and come up with a reasoned and budget conscious response to real and potential issues. Therefore, our roles as ergonomists and educators have morphed a bit over the intervening years.

We are truly the spearheads, interpreters, consultants, educators, coordinators and traffic cops when it comes to helping clients determine what to do! In the area of equipment alone, the number of available products and sources has skyrocketed in just the past 5 years alone! Heck, we as ergonomists even have trouble keeping up with all the innovation and new products on the market. Imagine how an HR Generalist, Facilities Manager or Health & Safety Officer must feel!

Couple the plethora of equipment choices with the modern work environment of “work anywhere”; “shared workstations”; “telecommuting”; “conference rooms”; “wi-fi enabled everything!” and the picture becomes more muddled and in need of some clarity.

Just as technology has changed and evolved, so has the ergonomic response. So as a result, at Performance Based Ergonomics, our mantra and guiding principle has always been: “You are the piece of ergonomic equipment that goes everywhere with you and needs the most modification!” The best equipment and set-up can be defeated with poor behavior. And with the proliferation of all the new gadgets and work environments, there is more opportunity for people to “behave badly”.

So, here are two critical points to consider that can help you calm an anxious client:

1)     Recommended equipment lists: Since there are so many choices and vendors for equipment, suggest to you client that you create a manageable, but preferred equipment list that meets the needs of their organization. This might necessitate a walk-through analysis of their particular environment, but it will be well worth it and will save them both time and money in the near and long term

2)     Posture, Behavior & Ergonomic Mobility: As more of us migrate from the traditional desktop to meeting and conference rooms, shared workstations and mobile devices etc, it is even more critical to reinforce the importance of good posture and behavioral interaction with our devices. Until we can challenge our clients to take the same care and approach to evaluate and modify conference rooms that has become the standard for individual workstations, providing training and education with regard to posture and the best ways to use mobile equipment is paramount!

We would love to hear how you are dealing with these issues with your clients and prospective clients!

Until the next time!

Screen Shot 2013-03-22 at 7.16.15 AMAndrew Blumenfeld, M.A., PBE Co-Founder

For more information check out our website for onsite & online solutions.



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