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Stopping the Spread of Work Safety Fails

By Celeste McLaughlin, BA, CEOE, CDMS, CPDM

It’s funny to look at pictures of safety fails which were caught before anyone actually got hurt. The funniness ends when the people creating the safety fails are employees at your company. Pictures of Funny Safety Fails

People are social creatures and naturally emulate one another. While this behavior has sociological benefits, it can be a disaster when an employee’s behavior is creating a safety hazard. We’ve seen it happen many times at different companies.

If one employee has an idea to stack a filing cabinet on top of his desk to create a standing desk, that is a problem. If 20 other employees see his desk before you do and then go on to create their own makeshift desks, that is an even bigger problem. The filing cabinet on top of the desk scenario was a real situation I saw while doing an ergonomics evaluation. When we see safety fails while doing ergonomics evaluations at companies, we always let employers know about them.

I bring up the filing cabinet on top of the desk scenario because we often see things employees have stacked on top of their desks to create standing desks when we go out to companies to do ergonomics evaluations. Besides the obvious danger of things falling and injuring someone or breaking equipment, there are ergonomics risk factors which are created when employees create their own standing desks out of different objects.

There are standards for workplace equipment which we follow when recommending equipment. If standards are not followed, injury can occur. That’s why it’s so important to stop bad safety habits before they spread throughout a company. ANSI Standards

For more expert ergonomics advice, Contact and we’ll be happy to help.














Ergonomics’ Science Behind Standing at Work

By Janet DeLapp, MS, CDMS, CPDM, CPE

You may have heard that the effects of sitting all day is the equivalent to smoking a pack of cigarettes per day. It is not clear where the scientific evidence that supports that statement is found but we do know that there is no evidence that sitting causes lung cancer. Thank goodness.

However, there is evidence that prolonged sitting has a negative effect on cardio-vascular health but how bad of an effect is not known yet. Also, what is not known is whether standing at work reduces the chance of developing musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs), such as, tendonitis, low back issues or carpal tunnel; the longitudinal studies have just not been produced yet.

Keep in mind, Ergonomics is the science that helps people stay free from developing MSDs while also improving overall comfort and productivity. This is done by insuring the ergonomic risks, leading to the development of these disorders, are eliminated.

In the office environment, the most common ergonomic risk factors found include:

  • Awkward postures of the spine and upper extremities due to:
    • Incorrect equipment heights in relation to the individual’s anthropometric needs (NOTE: anthropometrics is the science of body measurements and is used in implementing ergonomics practices)
    • Incorrect equipment positioning
    • Incorrect equipment
  • Repetitive work with inadequate rest breaks
    • Studies show that the typical break schedule of 15,30,15 minutes is not sufficient to recover from repetitive office work.

The fact is, installing a sit-stand station does nothing to abate these 2 biggest ergonomics concerns listed above. That is not the worst of it. The most dangerous thing is that once a sit-stand station is installed, often both the employer and employee think that the ergonomic risks are abated, when in fact, they are not. In fact, new ergonomic risk factors may have been introduced with the new workstation.

We all know, standing some of the time to work is great, it feels good to have that freedom of movement, right? Well, the fact is, the standing desk is not effective in getting you to move enough. Standing, by itself, is not much better than sitting; all the health benefits reside in moving. The point is, you have to get the blood that has pooled in places, pumped up through the heart again. Blood pools when you sit or stand too long and only moving will pump it back up.

The good news is that more dynamic workstations and work environments, where movement is incorporated more naturally, are the future and with them, will come improved health. Perhaps these new work environments will also reduce MSDs in the workplace. However, to do so, the design engineers need to incorporate ergonomics principles into their designs.

For now, here is the take away to make sure you are getting the most benefit from that new sit-stand station:

  • First, ask a professional Ergonomics Consultant to evaluate the ergonomic risk factors that are present in your work area. There is a 99% chance there are some and you will be happy to get rid of them.
  • Second, develop a healthy sit-stand-move schedule. So far, evidence supports:
  • Sitting ½ the day and standing ½ the day and changing posture every 30 minutes or
  • Sitting 20 minutes, standing 8 minutes and moving 2 minutes every half hour, in addition to your regular breaks.
  • Ideas on how to move more include:
    • Take 10 steps in your work area
    • Do ten calf raises or squats
    • Stretch
    • Go talk to a co-worker face to face
    • Do walking meetings

In the long run, if professionals bring the science of ergonomics and the science of health together, the best solutions for optimum health will result but they both have to work together.

For more expert ergonomics advice, Contact and we’ll be happy to help.


Should you try Standing While Working? Some Ergonomics Tips to Consider.

How to Adjust the Work Area for Standing Desks

By Celeste McLaughlin, Ergonomics Manager

Standing while working has become increasingly popular. For employers who provide height adjustable surfaces, it is important to know the correct way for employees to use them. Although standing while working can be healthy, using height adjustable surfaces incorrectly causes ergonomics risk factors which can lead to pain and injury.

Upon delivery, set the sitting and standing heights of the surface and monitor at the right heights for the employee. If a keyboard tray is being used, it is important for it to be the correct height as well. If the surface has automatic settings, set them for the employee when the surface is delivered. If the surface does not have automatic settings, the employee can be provided with a measuring tape and notes of the measurements. Alternatively, the wall can be marked with a pin or some type of marking to indicate what heights the surface should be while standing and sitting.

When doing ergonomic assessments, Solutions Northwest educates employees on the following procedures when a sit-stand surface is used:

Tips for Working While Standing

Your Feet and Legs:

  • Whenever possible, move while you stand. Standing is not moving.
  • Point your toes forward.
  • Keep your weight evenly on both legs.
  • Keep your knees slightly bent, not locked.
  • Elevate one foot on a footrest or ream of paper to avoid swaying your back.
  • Wear shoes with good arch support and cushioning.
  • Use an anti-fatigue mat. A 2’ x 3’ mat is a good size. Move it out of the way when you are using your chair. The mat should have a beveled edge which is not a tripping hazard.
  • Use the anti-fatigue mat as your movement spring board.

Your Hands and Arms

  • Keep your elbows by your sides, not resting on the surface.
  • Recognize the symptoms of fatigue. If you are leaning on the surface, you are tired. Sit down before you are fatigued. Stand before your muscles tighten up from sitting.

Back and Shoulders

  • Avoid hunching forward. Keep your head over your shoulders.

Remember To:

  • Develop a good schedule for switching between standing and sitting.
  • Do not let pain be the reminder to change your position from sitting to standing or vice versa. Change your position before pain sets in. Make note of when your body starts hurting while standing. Switch to sitting 10 minutes before the time your body started hurting while standing.
  • Walk for at least five minutes every hour.

Having the newest equipment does not ensure that employees will be healthy in the workplace. Although having ergonomically correct equipment cuts back on pain and injuries, it is not the only solution. Both equipment and behaviors need to improve to reduce health risks. For more Ergonomics Tips, visit Solutions Northwest or contact one of our experts today.

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