Ergnomics blog

Ergonomics blog

Safe patient handling resources

EORM recently delivered a Safe Patient Handling webinar, which explored the new California Assembly
Bill 1136 and the steps to develop or augment safe patient handling and ergonomics programs in
hospitals and other acute care settings. Here are some of the online resources we have collected about
safe patient handling and the new California regulation.

Articles and other Safe Patient Handling Resources


Are you ready for the “LEED Ergonomics”?

Are you ready for the LEED Ergonomics?

Fifteen years ago the U.S. Green Building Council launched the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Green Building Rating System. Over the past decade, the system has transformed the building market. In 2008 LEED included a point for a “comprehensive ergonomics strategy” under the Innovation in Design category, further recognizing the link between ergonomics and sustainability. The 2012 revisions propose to move the ergonomics credit to the Indoor Environmental Quality Category. This development has been fundamentally changing how ergonomics is viewed and raising consumer awareness.

The LEED system focuses on five categories: Sustainable Sites, Water Efficiency, Energy & Atmosphere, Materials & Resources, and Indoor Environmental Quality. Besides those, there are additional categories for some specific types of building. Within these categories, variable credits can be obtained. For example, one point can now be obtained for designs that promote good ergonomics. The requirement for this point involves the development and implementation of “a comprehensive ergonomics strategy that will have a positive impact on human health and comfort when performing daily activity for at least 75% of Full Time Equivalent building users”. Based on the total number of points earned, a building project then can be awarded one of four levels of LEED certification.

The LEED ergonomics credit is intended “to promote healthy, comfortable, and productive work by designing the workplace to accommodate its users”. Adding an ergonomics requirement to the LEED system is a natural extension because they are achieving the same goal. Furthermore, there are correlations between the traditional LEED categories and ergonomics credit. For instance, a poorly fitted chair will be replaced sooner with an ergonomics featured chair, thereby increasing the material cost.

The USGBC has recognized the value of workplace ergonomics as a proactive endeavor, which will profoundly change the acceptance and adoption by many organizations. It is now up to us to support the action of the USGBC, and to assist clients with developing great workplace ergonomics programs.

Hedge, Alan. “The Sprouting of “Green” Ergonomics.” Human Factors: The Journal of the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society 51 (2008): n. pag. Print.

“Green Events.” USGBC New York Upstate Chapter – N.p., n.d. Web. 18 Oct. 2013.

What Kind of Party? N.d. Photograph. Green Building Labels 101: An Inhabitat Guide to Third Party Environmental Certifications Read More: Green Building Labels 101: An Inhabitat Guide to Third Party Environmental Certifications | Inhabitat – Sustainable Design Innovation, Eco Architecture, Green Building. Jill Fehrenbacher. Web.

By Andrew Zhang, MS, AEP

It bears repeating: repetitive strain injuries are painful, costly and preventable… and continue to increase in frequency

Repetitive strain injury (RSI) is a common ailment that involves different injuries caused by excessive repetitive activity or overuse. The spectrum ranges from carpal tunnel syndrome to tendonitis. There is no specific protocol for treating RSI simply because RSI can be caused by many things.

RSI is accompanied by an unpleasant feeling often caused by intense or damaging stimuli to the overall body from repetitive stress directed to the muscles, nerves, tendons, and other soft tissues. Experts say that RSI is associated with the musculoskeletal and nervous systems triggered by repetitive tasks, forceful exertions, vibrations, or awkward positions.

According to the Federal Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA), “RSIs are one of the fastest growing workplace injuries, and can result any time there is a mismatch between the physical requirements of the job and the physical capacity of the human body”. Some other factors that can trigger RSI include repetitive motion, static posture, use of appreciable force, awkward postures, heavy lifting, having to work fast and under pressure or a combination of these factors which are ever-present in today’s various businesses or organizational operations.

Unfortunately even typing on the keyboard over extended periods or clicking a mouse on a regular basis can cause RSI and could be associated with carpel tunnel syndrome. The risk associated with RSIs may pose danger to worker’s ability to perform his or her task on a daily basis.

RSIs symptoms vary, but often include; pain or tenderness in your muscles or joints, stiffness, throbbing, tingling or numbness, weakness or cramp. Experts also believe that RSI usually develops gradually and may range from mild to severe. If the symptoms are left untreated, the symptoms are likely to get worse and cause longer periods of pain. It is practically advisable to get treatments or see a physician as early as possible to increases chance of recovery and reduces risk of long-term problems. RSI’s can also cost businesses money from lost working time, sick pay, and administration. Addressing the causes of the RSI injury will increase the chance that the injury does not reoccur in the individual employee, and protects other employees from developing similar problems.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics stated that RSI accounts for about one in four lost-time injuries and illness reported by employers to the BLS and is estimated at 615,000 in 1993 (BLS 1993). One in every three workers’ compensation dollars pays for RSIs. In all, insurers awarded an estimated 2.73 million workers’ compensation claims for RSIs in 1993, costing employers more than $20 billion.

Indirect costs to employers are estimated to be five times that amount — $100 billion. One major insurance company estimated the individual cost per claim to be $8,000, or double the average claim for other injuries or illnesses (OSHA 1996). One major challenge of RSI is the fact that it develops slowly almost under the radar over a long period of time rather which can lead to a lack of diagnosis. This lack of diagnosis can lead to the condition of the RSI to be already in a chronic state when it is finally diagnosed.

It is absolutely essential to have a concrete or in-depth knowledge on the root cause of RSIs to enable an immediate action and implement a preventive program. The preventive program should focus towards reducing likelihood of RSI in the workplace while on the other hand improve productivity and efficiency.

Encouraging your employees to report signs of an RSI early can help manage contributing problems easily and quickly. Additionally, conducting walkthroughs of work areas can help detect where employees may be exposed to the risk factors which contribute to RSI. Encouraging employees to participate in these walkthroughs can also help detect problems early, and ensure they are addressed.

By Stanley Njoku, Consulting Technician

Reich Robert, B. US. Department of Labor, Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA), (1996). Preventing repetitive stress injuries (Archived). Retrieved from website: (accessed October 18, 2013).

UCLA. Ergonomics. (n.d) Repetitive Strain Injury (RSI): (accessed October 18, 2013).

How do active workstations really impact sedentary job performance?

Recent discussions about the side effects of prolonged sitting have brought active workstations back to our attention. Burning some calories while working does sound like a good idea and the active workstations allow the user to walk, cycle, or even sit on a rubber ball when working. Walking, cycling and other forms of exercise will definitely benefit office workers by increasing daily energy expenditure. However, typing and mousing require accuracy which is best achieved when the upper body is stationary, and so the question, do these active workstations truly help office workers with their computer work performance?

“As these products have grown in use, so has feedback on their downsides,” MarketWatch is reporting on the growing negative results these workstations are having on office life. This article cites several reports that show loss of cognitive functions and fine motor skills, and a subsequent decline in productivity, resulting from using a treadmill or active desk while working.

A typing performance study on people using active workstations has been conducted recently by Department of Kinesiology and Health, Miami University. Twenty-four research participants were asked to perform a typing test under four conditions including the seated position as control, treadmill walking at 1.3 km/hr., 2.25 km/hr., and 3.2 km/hr. Results indicated that treadmill walking had a detrimental effect on typing performance. Another walking and cycling computer workstations study done by Dr. Leon Straker; et al. in 2009 also shows that computer task performance was lower when walking compared with chair sitting.

Active workstation could help you get fit, but it is also more likely to affect the quality of your work in a negative manner. Instead of an active workstation, focus should be on providing employees with a workstation that fits ergonomic guidelines. One option to be considered would be a height-adjustable workstation which accommodates employees of varying heights and can give users the option to adjust their desks from normal seated height to standing height.

By Andrew Zhang, MS, AEP, EORM

Funk, Rachel E., Megan L. Taylor., et al. “Effect of Walking Speed on Typing Performance Using an Active Workstation.” (n.d.): n. pag. EFFECT OF WALKING SPEED ON TYPING PERFORMANCE USING AN ACTIVE WORKSTATION. PubMed, Aug. 2012. Web.

Straker, L., J. Levine, and A. Campbell. “The Effects of Walking and Cycling Computer Workstations on Keyboard and Mouse Performance.” Human Factors: The Journal of the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society 51.6 (2010): 831-44. Print.

Wieczner, Jen. “Is Your Ergonomic Desk Trying to Kill You?” Is Your Ergonomic Desk Trying to Kill You? Web.

Helicopter ergonomics – challenges with entering / exiting the aircraft

Most of us don’t interact with helicopters, but for those who do, entering and exiting can present a number of ergonomic challenges and risks.

I was recently asked to review this task at a Children’s Hospital, where nurses and staff have to climb up into the helicopter en route to emergencies or patient transports. They were using only a single strap attached to one of the pilot seats as a hand hold to pull/lift themselves up to a 24” first step.

The Army has a few good pictures demonstrating this exact task on a different type of helicopter.   As you can see from the picture below the helicopter occupant has to assume a very awkward posture and the area where they have to climb in can be high from the ground.

While it initially looked like this might be a tough challenge to solve, after a few phone calls with the  helicopter manufacturer they were able to point me to the retrofit department which had many different types of bolt-on additional steps, hand holds, etc. which could be added to the aircraft. This would make this task much easier by providing a second point of hand contact to avoid swinging while entering. Additionally, lowering the first step would bring the knee lower than the hips, making it much easier for the nurses and staff to pull themselves up into the seat.

By Anuja Patil, MS, AEP, Associate Consultant at EORM


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