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Ergonomically Correct Work Areas

Ergonomics is one of those terms that those of us in the HR profession, or indeed anyone in management, have been hearing a lot lately. Seminars, webinars, and articles are full of information about its importance and its impact.

Kate Moore, RPR
MQ Editor
If you have a good, ergonomically correct setup at the office, then you might not give it much thought. But if you don't, it's a fact that is painfully difficult to ignore given the amount of time we spend at work. When I started my new job last year, the first thing they asked me was what kind of desk I wanted. Then they told me to pick whatever chair I felt I would need to be comfortable. After several years in the not-for-profit sector where the purchase of new furniture was a pipe dream (and that's not a knock, of course services to clients came first), it was like hitting the jackpot! I ended up with a setup that suits me perfectly. I was pleased to see that my new employer took a proactive approach to ergonomics in the workplace.

By contrast, my husband's employer informed him, when he requested an assessment of his workspace due to pain he was experiencing, that until the pain worsened to the point that he required medical intervention they could not do anything to help him. I was amazed at this - not only at the short-sightedness of this approach in terms of cost, but at the callous disregard for the well-being of staff.

The Ontario Ministry of Labour has said that ergonomic-related injuries, or musculoskeletal disorders, account for over 40 per cent of all lost-time injuries. It would seem that the business case is strong for taking a proactive approach. After all, a $600 chair or $100 keyboard tray are much less costly than paying for lost time injuries, some of which can drag on for months or years. Granted, changing someone's workspace is not necessarily the perfect solution. Much of the pain we experience from working at a desk all day comes from not changing positions frequently enough, or not getting up and moving around.

But at the end of the day, the way we approach this issue says a lot about who we are as employers. While we don't need to accede to every request for the coolest, newest chair or computer monitor, ensuring that those employees who work at a computer all day are set up in a way that prevents injury shows the value we place on our work force.


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