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10 Tips for Effective Ergonomic Evaluations

Kathy Espinoza 4/25/2017
Kathy Espinoza

We are all working as fast as we can, and often times, we train assistants to help provide “triage” ergonomics assessments. As a Board Certified Professional Ergonomist, I’m often asked to evaluate those who provide ergonomics assessments under the Risk Manager/Workers’ Compensation Specialist. There are common issues that I see over and over. Here are ten tips to help evaluators make better ergonomics assessments:

  1. Explain why you are there and why ergonomics is important to the employee. Don’t go in with a ‘one & done’ silo mentality. Look at the entire workstation. It’s never just ONE issue.
  2. Ask if the employee is feeling any discomfort. I avoid using the term “pain.” I need to know their areas of concern, so as the evaluator, I can target their area for correction.
  3. Be personable. Don’t just ‘go for the fix’ without listening. Get the employee to open up and express their concerns. Everyone wants to feel like they’ve been heard.
  4. Connect the dots for them. Millennials especially need a clear explanation like, “One reason that your shoulder hurts is because of the reach distance to the mouse or because you have a habit of leaning.” It’s useless to say “don’t lean” without connecting that habit to the possible reason for their discomfort.
  5. Watch out for their bad habits and address it with the employee. Talk with employee long enough to get them to relax and go back to the bad habits that may be causing the problem. Are they leaning on armrests or desk edges? Are their feet up on the chair base? Are they sitting on their foot? Is their phone or tablet out, adding additional contributing factors? Be holistic in your approach to ergonomics. Habits can play as big a role as equipment.
  6. Don’t be an ‘ergo enabler’… have the employee adjust their own chair, move their own monitor, learn how to fix their own set up. This way, they will fix it at home. Many times, someone else sits in and changes their chair settings. Teach the employee how to readjust properly or else they will call you out again to adjust their chair. With that in mind, it’s important that you are familiar with the chair adjustments.
  7. Use every means for adjusting the existing equipment before offering to purchase new equipment.
  8. Ask what’s preventing them getting comfortable at their workstation. If their mouse isn’t working for them, ask the employee why? Is there a drawer in the way and they don’t have any mouse excursion room? Is the cubby overhead prohibiting the monitors from being raised high enough for proper viewing? If they have a headset and they are not using it, ask why? Their answers to these questions may suggest simple, inexpensive solutions.
  9. Discuss technology habits at home (phone, tablet, laptop, gaming, etc.) Explain the concept of “cumulative injury” and that it’s not just activities from work. Teach them how to “talk to text” and show them that feature on their phone. Connect the dots: “This is why you may be having discomfort in your thumb.”
  10. Promote wellness during the ergonomics evaluation. Set up reminders on their Outlook program to help them remember to stand and stretch throughout the day.