What our ergonomists like to talk about

We’re packing for our March trip to Louisville, Kentucky for the Applied Ergonomics conference. We’re also seeking opportunities to present to networking groups of local potential clients, such as Safety Professionals, HR Professionals, Manufacturing Engineers, and Health and Wellness Professionals. Do any of these topics catch your interest? If so, read the bottom paragraph for more info.

Gamify your ergonomics training (Alex and Carrie’s AEC presentation)

Using games in training improves participant engagement, and allows us to harness our competitive nature while demonstrating ergonomics principles. This session demonstrates how games can be used in a variety of settings, including:

  • microlearning (e.g. Why is a wide base of support important for push strength?)
  • employee awareness training (e.g. How much faster can I type when my chair is adjusted properly? Who wins if one person has to where thick gloves to play kerplunk?)
  • full-day cost-justification training for engineers (e.g. Using “Operation”, what combination of tools, work height adjustability, and work organization yields the best return-on-investment?)

We’ve experimented with a variety of familiar board games, physical strength tests, and complex custom-built scoring systems. All of them have been very well received by participants and clients.


Picking Personal Protective Equipment: How to run PPE product trials (Aaron and Carrie’s AEC presentation)

Selecting gloves, padding, and other personal protective equipment (PPE) that will meet the needs of diverse employees can be challenging. Often, many types and brands of PPE are available to safely protect workers from hazards, but they may not all offer the same comfort and fit. Workers who must wear PPE that is too large, too small, or uncomfortable may be at higher risk of musculoskeletal injuries. Yet running product trials seems like a largely subjective process; the same glove may be favoured by one “average-sized” employee and deemed unacceptable by another.

We know that we need to trial new products before committing to a purchase agreement, but little information is available to guide us in the process of trialing new PPE. The data-driven process used in this article has been used for gloves, elbow pads, knee pads, knee savers (behind the knee), passive exoskeletons, and kneeling mats. Better decisions can be made about new PPE if feedback is sought from workers before a purchase decision is made.


Ten things we didn’t learn in school (Carter and Callum’s AEC presentation)

Ergonomists graduate with knowledge about how to evaluate jobs and provide recommendations. However, education is not preparing ergonomists for all of the challenges that are present in the work world. From a practical perspective, mentorship can bridge that gap, but even with a mentor at their side, new ergonomists can be surprized by the politics and practices of the business environment.

The “top ten” list was generated through consultation with a team of new ergonomists, and a survey of their colleagues. The presentations includes advice for overcoming each challenge.


Sweet dreams: How does ergonomics impact restful sleep? (Christina and Carrie’s AEC presentation)

While we typically think about ergonomics strictly as it applies to work, we could expand our definition to include the interaction between people and their home environments. We spend a third of our lives sleeping; it stands to reason that we should invest some effort into optimizing the fit between our bodies and our sleep environments.

Ergonomists are asked for advice about everything from “What chair should I buy” to “Is this drill really ‘ergonomic’”? We were recently asked about pillows, mattresses, and sleep environment, so we set out to gather some information to help employees optimize their sleep. This topic is particularly important for employees who work shifts, since their sleep habits tend to be compromised.


Also in our library….

Best practices (ergonomic work strategies)

We are often asked, “What is the best way to…complete xyz task?” A “best practice” or “ergo work strategy” study is a type of assessment process that allows an ergonomist to compare two different methods, and identify which offers a biomechanical advantage. To identify best practices, we typically work with small groups of experienced employees, drawing out the “tricks of the trade” and learning how, when, and why they work. We use biomechanical models to compare the “common” and “best” practices. A library of best practice documents forms an excellent foundation for practical, hazard-specific ergonomics training. This presentation showcases how this approach was used to develop hands-on ergonomics training for outdoor workers.


Aging and MSD risk

We often think of age as a risk factor for strain/sprain injury; we know that our bodies lose their physical strength and endurance as we age, so it stands to reason that our injury risk would increase. There is some evidence to suggest that this is at least partly true. But it’s not all bad news! There are benefits to age! This presentation reviews the changes that occur with aging, some of the initiatives that we can take to counteract them, and how we can harness the benefits of an aging workforce.


Obesity and MSD risk

Ergonomists are charged with helping employers provide workplaces that safely accommodate a majority of the working population. As the population grows (literally), our design guidelines need to change so that we accommodate larger workers in the workplace. This presentation reviews the anthropometric criteria that we need to consider when designing workspaces for a population that is increasing in size and weight. We also describe how obesity increases the risk of musculoskeletal injury for those who “handle” larger people; nurses, personal support workers, therapists, paramedics, and others are required to position, transfer and assist people who are significantly larger than themselves. The presentation demonstrates the effect of “anthrobesity” on workers in North America, both from the obese worker’s perspective, and from the perspective of care providers.


Cost-justifying ergonomics improvements

Cost-justification is a common practice used to compare the potential financial gains of a modification against the expenses. Several tools are available for ergonomists and safety professionals to cost-justify ergonomics modifications; however, these tools focus primarily on injury costs, or may make unrealistic claims about Quality or Productivity improvements. A job with strain/sprain injury hazards is often associated with decreased productivity, increased error rates, and poor job satisfaction. The inclusion of alternative metrics in a cost-justification protocol provides a more effective way to express the benefits of ergonomic implementations. Six Sigma and Lean tools can be leveraged to explore the benefits of quality and productivity initiatives. This presentation will describe our experience with applying these concepts to ergonomics interventions


How an ergonomist can support return to work and claims management

During the return-to-work process, a worker with medical limitations is brought back to the workplace. The Supervisor is often challenged to find work that meets the worker’s limitations, and disagreements may occur regarding the suitability of the job selected for the worker. An ergonomist can contribute to a better return-to-work process by:

  1. Completing objective (measurement-based) descriptions of the physical and cognitive demands of the job, which can be more simply compared with the worker’s documented abilities
  2. Assisting in identifying and implementing appropriate modified work

This presentation describes scenarios where ergonomists have been instrumental in successful return-to-work cases.

This is not an exhaustive list; we can talk about almost anything related to ergonomics!

If you’d like us to present one of these sessions, please contact carrie@taylordergo.com for a quote. If the meeting presents an opportunity for us to connect with people from multiple locations who are in the position to purchase our services, we may be able to present at no charge.  If you’re already an “on-site ergo” (regular ongoing) client, your ergonomist can present these topics on a regularly scheduled day! (Just another good reason to become an on-site ergo client!)

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