Celebrate National Ergonomics Month with some new moves

By Delia Treaster, Ph.D., CPE, BWC Ergonomic Technical Advisor

Have you ever noticed your wrists hurt after hours of working at the computer or your back hurts after standing all day at work? Over time, these daily discomforts can add up, leading to undue physical stress, chronic pain and even injury.

That’s why practicing proper workplace ergonomics is important, and there’s no better time than now. October is National Ergonomics Month – a month the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society has designated to recognize the relationship between humans and their work environment.

Ergonomics involves the practice of refining the design of products and workplaces to optimize them for humans.

Here are some tips, new moves and small changes to improve your workplace ergonomics.

Practice Neutral Posture
Neutral posture is the spine’s natural aligned position. It’s important to keep your spine in neutral position as much as possible to avoid pain and injury. A few helpful tips include:

  • Keeping the top of your computer monitor at or slightly below eye height, so your head is level and not tilted up or down.
  • Keeping your feet flat on the ground when you’re sitting in your chair.
  • Using lumbar support in chairs to prevent low back pain.

Get Up and Move
Prolonged sitting can lead to back and neck pain and even long-term health problems. It’s a good idea to get up and move every 30 minutes during the day. Set a reminder if you have to and get up and move your body for a few minutes every half hour. This could mean taking a brisk walk or just standing and stretching. It will also help boost your energy and improve circulation.

Get into the habit of stretching throughout the day. Take quick breaks to touch your toes, stretch your arms, and reach upwards over your head. You’d be surprised how much better a little stretching can make you feel throughout the day.

For more tips to stay safe and healthy in your work environment, visit BeSafeOhio.com.

Exoskeletons gain momentum in preventing ergonomic injuries

By Delia Treaster, PhD, CPE, BWC Ergonomic Technical Advisor

Exoskeletons are here! Formerly found in science fiction or action movies, exoskeletons have made the transition from fantasy to reality.

Exoskeletons are wearable devices that augment the physical capability of the worker. They have been developed for military operations and medical rehabilitation, but exoskeletons are increasingly found in industry. The expectation is that exoskeletons can protect workers by reducing the ergonomic hazards of physically demanding jobs, thereby allowing them to work with less fatigue and discomfort.

Some exoskeletons are designed to provide postural support to the legs. Other exoskeletons provide assistance to the back or arms during lifting tasks. Yet another type of industrial exoskeletons may assist the whole body.

Despite their tantalizing promise of reduced fatigue and improved safety, there are many unanswered questions regarding the use of exoskeletons in industrial jobs.

  • What are the short- and long-term consequences of using an exoskeleton on muscle conditioning and coordination?
  • Does an exoskeleton affect a worker’s sense of balance or alter movement patterns?
  • What physical sizes can be accommodated by the exoskeleton?
  • What kind of training and how much training is needed for a worker to use an exoskeleton in performing his/her job?
  • Are exoskeletons accepted by workers – why or why not?
  • How effective are exoskeletons in reducing ergonomic injuries?

On March 9, 2018, a workshop at the 2018 Ohio Safety Congress & Expo will provide an overview of industrial exoskeletons. Exoskeleton manufacturers will demonstrate the features of their products and discuss their potential for improving safety and productivity.

Researchers will share results of their studies on the impact of exoskeletons on the human body. End users will share their experiences in using exoskeletons in real-world production jobs. Knowledge gleaned from this workshop will assist industry decision makers in determining whether exoskeletons would be beneficial to their operations and which exoskeletons would be most suitable.

Ohio Safety Congress & Expo attendees may also see various exoskeleton models and talk to sales representatives by visiting the exoskeleton booths in the Expo Marketplace (Hall B, Aisle 900) on March 7 and 8.

Admission to the workshop is free but seating is limited. Register in advance by calling 614-466-7695 or through online registration.

Hey, don’t just sit there!

By Mike Lampl, BWC Research Director

Unfortunately, it’s way too easy to spend a significant amount of time sitting throughout the day. Some studies show that office workers typically spend seven or more hours sitting at work.

Add in driving to and from work, sitting at meals, sitting while watching television or reading, and you’ve easily spent 10 or more hours sitting, often without many postural changes during that time.

Prolonged sitting is associated with many chronic diseases such as cardiovascular ailments, diabetes, and cancer.

Here are some things to keep in mind while you are sitting.

  1. Your feet should be fully supported by the floor or a footrest.
  2. Your back should be fully supported with appropriate lumbar support when sitting vertically or leaning back slightly.
  3. Your thighs and hips should be supported by a well-padded seat and generally parallel to the floor.
  4. Your knees should be about the same height as the hips with the feet slightly forward.

Your next posture is your best posture. In other words, remember to make small adjustments to your chair to change your posture frequently throughout the day. And most importantly get up at least every 30 minutes for at least six minutes.

Here are some ways to incorporate standing throughout the day.

  • Stand up while talking on the phone. This has the added benefit of a generally more energetic voice.
  • Conduct a walking meeting inside or outside. Fresh air can be great, but find some shade or stay inside if it is too hot outside.
  • Stand up to clean clutter at your desk/workstation. You may be surprised what you find.
  • Conduct a standing meeting. This may also have the added benefit of keeping the meeting from going too long.
  • Walk to your co-workers’ desk and talk instead of sending an email or instant message. Sometimes face-to-face communication takes care of things quicker.

Introducing more standing and moving into your work regimen and home activities can improve your well-being, and make you a more productive person.

It is OK to sit for a good part of the day, but interrupting sitting with standing or moving every 30 minutes can be a very worthwhile change!

Remember: Sit less. Move more.

Workplace safety a win for man and his best friend

By Melissa Vince, BWC Public Relations Manager

BWC Administrator/CEO Sarah Morrison presents a certificate of appreciation to Dr. Joe Geer, one of three veterinarians at the clinic, standing here with a patient, Tug.

Veterinarians and their staffs will agree that taking x-rays of animals can be challenging – they get agitated and can lash out by biting and scratching. Vet techs must also lift and restrain the animals that can weigh hundreds of pounds, and developing film can expose them to radiation and noxious chemicals.

One vet hospital in Reynoldsburg figured out that working with safety experts at BWC could help them access newer technology that reduces dangers to their employees, and also stress on the animals.


Dr. Joe Geer and his staff gave BWC Administrator/CEO Sarah Morrison a close-up look at the new equipment.

The Rosehill Veterinary Hospital has been providing veterinary care for companion animals and some pocket pets since the early 1970s. Dr. Joe Geer and his staff partnered with BWC Safety Consultant Bev Morris to apply for a Safety Intervention Grant to purchase a new digital radiography and x-ray table that allows an immediate display of an image on a computer monitor, eliminating the need to hand develop films in noxious chemicals.

The digital images can be manipulated on the computer, reducing exposure to radiation during retakes. Eliminating retakes also reduces the required lifting and positioning of animals for a second time, which decreases the risk of bites and scratches and minimizes stress on the animals.

Now that’s a win for man and his best friend.

As impressive as the technology was, Tug quickly became the star of the demo.

Check out more on BWC’s Safety Intervention Grant Program here.

BWC hires 3 fellows; 3 open slots remain in new occupational safety & hygiene fellowship

By Michelle Gatchell, BWC Communications

BWC has hired three fellows into its new Safety & Hygiene Fellowship program and is still taking applications to fill three remaining slots.

These fellowships are great opportunities for college graduates in the fields of occupational safety and health, engineering, industrial hygiene and/or or physical/natural sciences to receive on-the-job training in the following fields:

  • Occupational safety and health;
  • Ergonomics;
  • Industrial hygiene;
  • Risk management.

The positions are two-year paid, full-time with benefits. During the two years, the fellows will work alongside our safety, ergonomics and industrial hygiene consultants.

Throughout the program, they will participate in on-site safety, ergonomics, and industrial hygiene assessments and audits. Other assignments include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • Receiving hands-on training on the operation, maintenance and calibration of various equipment and tools used by Division of Safety & Hygiene (DSH) safety, industrial hygiene and ergonomics consultants;
  • Completing classes offered by DSH in the areas of occupational safety, ergonomics, industrial hygiene and risk management;
  • Engaging in various research and operational projects;
  • Participating in the preparation and instruction of training courses, including the development of the following:
    • Background materials;
    • Training manuals;
    • Training exercises;
    • Measurement and evaluation tools;
    • Coordination of course instructor development teams.

In the second year of their employment, fellows must focus on one of the following three areas:

  • Occupational safety;
  • Ergonomics;
  • Industrial hygiene.

Program benefits
Through this opportunity, fellows will have access to the collective knowledge and experience of DSH staff in the areas of occupational safety and health, ergonomics and industrial hygiene as it relates to all economic sectors, including manufacturing, construction, commercial, service, public works, utilities, agriculture, mining, wholesale and retail, and transportation.

How to apply
Prospective candidates may apply at the state of Ohio’s job board, careers.ohio.gov. To find an exact description of the position go to Search for State of Ohio Government Jobs, and you will find it listed under workers’ compensation and called NEW! Occupational Safety & Hygiene Fellow.

Use the power of knowledge to reduce injuries

By Ellen S. Nasner, BWC Education and Training Services Manager

What is one of the most important steps you can take to protect your employees from workplace injuries and accidents? Arm yourself, and your employees, with knowledge.

Safety experts at BWC can connect you with that knowledge. Safety training and education offerings available through our Division of Safety & Hygiene can open all of the doors to safety in your organization, including industrial hygiene; construction safety; ergonomics safety management; risk management; and how to develop a safety culture.

Safety Services CatalogOur Safety Services Catalog (www.bwc.ohio.gov/catalog) provides a listing of all our safety services and is an added
value to your employer services and benefits. In the Education and Training Services Section of the catalog, we offer information on 14 online courses and more than 400 classroom and onsite trainings at 12 different locations.  All of our safety services are available at no additional charge to employers covered by Ohio’s workers’ compensation insurance, and their employees.

Our experts and those we bring in from around the country to train in specialty areas teach all of our workshops and classes.  Some examples of those we bring in to teach are:

  • Environmental Options, Inc. that provide instruction on all of our Hazwoper courses and the Health Hazard Awareness & Toxicology Basics course;
  • Langlois, Weignad & Associates, Inc. that teach the ASP & CSP courses;
  • National Excavation & Safety Training Institute that instruct Trenching and Excavation.

It’s all available to you as a BWC policyholder.  Just visit www.bwc.ohio.gov/catalog to select your training.  Then go to www.bwclearningcenter.com to enroll in classes that will help you put safety first.

If you would like a consultant to contact you to review safety options for your workplace call 1-866-569-7805.

Let us know in the comments section if you have recently taken a class through our training department and how it may have impacted your perspective on safety.

Ever have a cramp or ache after work and wonder, “what did I do?”

Ergonomics of your workspace may be the answer to the question.
By Mike Lampl, BWC Ergonomics Technical Advisor

What is Ergonomics?
A practical definition for ergonomics is the science of matching workers and workplaces in a manner that improves worker productivity while lowering the risk of injury and discomfort.  More scientifically, ergonomics is the study of human abilities and limitations and the application of this information to the design of the man-made environment.  Think of something you have done to make your own job easier, more comfortable, and more productive.  That is ergonomics.

Ergonomics in the workplace is mostly directed at musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs).  In addition to injury reduction, ergonomics often positively impacts productivity, quality, employee turnover, and morale.

How can ergonomics be incorporated into the workplace?
O Reduce forceful exertions.
O Reduce manual loading by using convey­ors, hoists and other mechanical means.
Ergo blog 1O Use carts, hand-trucks or powered equipment when moving materials.
O Minimize the weight of tools.
O Use vices and clamps to hold materials.
O Learn from each other how to best use tools safely and efficiently.

Ergo blog 2

Ergo blog 6
O Maintain neutral postures as much as possible.
– Maintain the s-curve in your back. This can be achieved by tilting containers and
using seats with good lumbar support.
O Maintain a straight neck. Adjust working heights or tilt the equipment.
O Reduce the mechanical pressure on your soft tissues.
– Add padding to tools.
– Use cushioned chairs.
– Use floor mats.
O Maintain straight wrists. Use tools with proper thickness, length and shape.
O Work at approximately elbow height — slightly below for heavier work and slightly
above for precision work.
O When lifting, lift between your knee and shoulder height and carry at about your
waist height.
O Minimize reaching. Locate frequently used items as close to you as possible.

With MSDs caused by overexertion and/or repetitive motion accounting for roughly one out of three occupational injuries , ergonomics continues to be an important consideration in the workplace.

Employers in Ohio and throughout the nation have added ergonomic improvements such as lift tables, better tools, lifting devices, workstations with adjustability, etc.  Many have seen great success in injury reduction and avoidance as well as productivity improvements.

What has been your greatest success in regards to ergonomic improvements? Share it in our comment section so maybe others in our safety community can learn from it as well.

Be safe Ohio!