Q&A from webinar: "5 Ergonomic Must Haves for 2015"

Thank you to all who particpated in February's webinar. Here is a quick recap of the questions that were asked:

Does the higher backrest on a chair have value? People at our workplace seem to prefer them.

A higher back rest that supports the head (often referred to as ‘extra tall backrests’ when purchasing) does provide support for the head and neck and is often recommended by physiotherapists (or other health care professionals) when employees are recovery from injuries in these areas. 

Our experience has been that once the therapeutic benefit and recovery from the injury is complete, the use of the head rest component is not used as often.  In fact we will see individuals adopting a “turtle” or neck craning type posture which increases the muscular effort required to support the head.  Some individuals even reported that when not in use the head rest encroaches on their personal space.  For many female employees with long hair, awkward neck postures are more prevalent as wearing their hair up will cause them to move their head or body away from the back rest, thus creating ergonomic challenges.

We most often recommend a ¾-tall back support that will support up to or even slightly above the shoulders. Alternatively, there are some manufacturers that offer an adjustable neck support for the backrest that can be moved out of the way when not needed.

                                                           Backrest with headrest option          3/4-tall backrest option

I haven't seen the saddle chair before. When would you use it?

Most frequently, we see them in use in industries such as opticians and dentists.  The need to reduce the horizontal reach and be closer to the patient makes a nice fit for this type of seating.  Since these types stools/chairs encourage you to sit in a saddle posture, the thighs are lowered which opens up the hips and puts the spine into a more lordotic curve (the natural ‘S’ shape).  You sit higher in a saddle chair/stool than in a regular chair so this style may be an option for people who are only seated for brief periods of time and have to be able to be mobile (frequently up and down from their seat).

Overall, this type of seating is more suited to shorter term sitting tasks, not necessarily for a full 8-10 hour day at the computer.

We are looking at replacing cart casters. How do I figure out what caster I need? There are so many options and I want to make sure I’ve picked the right ones.

There are multiple variables that need to be considered when looking to make an impact to manual handling/ergonomics through caster/wheel choices.  Here are just a few:

  • Weight to be moved
  • Floor surfaces (condition and ramps)
  • Material of wheels
  • Diameter of wheels
  • Number of wheel
  • Swivel vs. non swivel casters
  • Bearings

The quickest way to ensure you are getting the best information is to speak with someone who specializes in wheels/castors (i.e. Darcor).  They can walk you through the pros and cons of each option and, if you do some up front data collection, can recommend products that are going to be a better fit.

I have about 10 people in my department (we’re a manufacturing facility). How can I use job coaching to reduce injuries and do you think that would be a good solution?

Job coaching is a great way to start changing the ergonomic culture in a company.  We can only do so much through administrative and engineering controls and then it is up to the employee.  Poor work methods and biomechanics is a huge concern for any company and how to address these “human factor” issues can be challenging without moving into disciplinary measures.  Job coaching allows best practice information to be presented to the worker in a positive and non-aggressive manner.  Once people start working “smarter not harder” injury reduction will follow.

In which kind of Canadian University is it possible to be trained and certified [in ergonomics]?

The Association of Canadian Ergonomists (ACE) website offers a list of Canadian educational institutions offering ergonomics related programs.

The CCPE (Canadian Certified Professional Ergonomist) designation is the only certification in Canada that requires applicants to:

  • Meet standard competencies in both education and practice
  • Have a degree in a related field
  • Have a minimum of 4 years of full-time practice
  • Devote the majority of their work time to the application, practice and/or teaching of ergonomics
  • Maintain their certification through a continuance of certification process

The ACE website also provides a list of international certifying bodies for ergonomics.

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