Five ergonomic must-haves to budget for

An expert makes recommendations on what ergonomic spending to prioritize this year
Thursday, April 23, 2015
By Alexandra Stinson

The scope and variety of ergonomic products and services that are available are vast — which can be overwhelming when a facility manager is trying to determine where to spend the limited dollars available in the corporate budget every year. The best way to ensure an ergonomic success story is to put the time in upfront and research, research, research.

If making a product-based purchase, consider speaking to dealers that offer a trial period or can provide a number of sample products for employees to test and give feedback on. What looks good in the catalogue can cost companies thousands of dollars and man hours to undo poor product placement/ purchasing. If sourcing document-based services, such as physical demands assessments, risk assessments or training, evaluate who is the best fit to provide these services.

Here are five ergonomic must-haves for 2015, along with pointers on selecting the right products and professionals:

Ergonomic seating

Although seating has come a long way over the years, that doesn’t mean good ergonomic seating is found in the workplace. With jobs becoming leaner and workstations being designed for sedentary, seated positions, a chair, although one of the pricier ergonomic investments, can actually be a great cost-saving opportunity.

To make a sound seating purchase, look for the following: seating with a firm lumbar support that will support the lower back; a height-adjustable back rest that allows the lumbar support to be positioned to fit the individual; and a sturdy gas lift (seat pan height adjustment) that has an appropriate lift range. Chairs are available in multiple heights and, although the standard chair size is appropriate for a large range of the working population, petite and tall options can assist in ensuring optimal ergonomic set up.

Provided a chair with multiple adjustments, employees can change their body positions regularly throughout the day when physically standing up is not an option. Although this is not an alternative to a sit-stand workstation, a fully featured chair allows joints to change angle, improves blood flow to specific areas of the body and reduces muscle fatigue through better support.

Height-adjustable workstations

With media hype surrounding the issue of static sitting, a highly functional chair may not be enough to mitigate potential injuries. More and more companies are looking into options that allow static workstations to be easily turned into height-adjustable solutions.

Consider the roughly 10-inch range between a tall male’s and small female’s standing elbow height and it becomes clear that one size does not fit all. Height adjustability offers a way to counteract this. Whether this feature comes with a cart, pallet/tote, workstation, or computer monitor, proper working heights enable optimal body positioning and ultimately decrease musculoskeletal risks.

Lifting assists

If an object has to be moved, a worker is better off pushing or pulling it than carrying it. Studies have repeatedly shown that the physical loading and muscular recruitment needed to carry an item is much more demanding and can increase the chance of injury.

To minimize push/pull forces, look at enlarged wheels, different wheel construction (nylon versus polyurethane, etc.) and casters. The characteristics of a wheel can greatly impact how easy it is to move a cart or other object.

Although wheels can literally save a worker’s back, it’s important to realize that poorly maintained wheels and castors can easily become a hazard. Be sure to develop a preventative maintenance program at the time of purchase.

Ergonomic training

When looking to nurture an ergonomic culture, educating employees can have a huge impact on the bottom line. With increased awareness, employees can aid in identifying change opportunities and making adjustments to their work practices to minimize musculoskeletal hazards.

A company’s workforce is also often the best resource for generating practical, feasible and cost-effective solutions to some of its biggest ergonomic woes. A little training can go a long way in fostering an ergonomic culture and reviving a stagnant ergonomics program, all at a relatively low cost.

Professional ergonomists

Often, ergonomists will offer free consultations to discuss how a company can develop a corporate structure for their ergonomics programs and injury-management initiatives.

Experts can help deliver a return a company’s ergonomic investments by providing objective recommendations. They may also deliver solutions more efficiently than in-house staff whose main function is not ergonomics.

Facility managers are often in need of job accommodation reports and Physical Demands Analyses documents to return injured workers quickly and with nominal impact to workflow. Working with professional ergonomists can reduce liability concerns if reports are ever called into arbitration or grievances.

Professional associations (such as the Association of Canadian Ergonomists) can be a perfect starting point to find a local expert. Consultants that are designated as either a Canadian Certified Professional Ergonomist (CCPE) or Certified Professional Ergonomist (CPE) must provide an academic transcript to support their background and prove multi-year experience in all areas of ergonomics.

Consider the benefits of these five investments when working to stretch limited ergonomics budgets. With health concerns around sitting and material handling dominating the ergonomics discourse, furniture adjustability and lifting assists will continue to be top of mind for many in 2015. Traditional administrative strategies such as training and ergonomic-based documentation will remain a staple in any effective ergonomics program. When combined, these key features can help facilitate a healthy and happy workforce focused on injury reduction.

Alexandra Stinson is a Canadian Certified Professional Ergonomist (CCPE), Registered Kinesiologist (R.Kin.) and co-founder of PROergonomics. She has assisted in providing cost-effective ergonomic solutions to her clients for more than 15 years. She can be reached at

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