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Ergonomics Expert Interview – 11 Questions

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Ergonomics Expert Post-Pandemic Q&A @ Mindy Smith, MEng, CPE

During the pandemic, I wrote an article based on a great at-home ergonomics article written by Ergonomics Expert  Mindy Smith of TeamErgo.  You can find her contact information at the end of this article.  She definitely knows her stuff.  The previous article that I wrote can be found here.   The prior article centered on cost-savings with home ergonomics. The article is worth a read even today for the cost-saving ideas.

diagram computer workstation variables ergonomics expert
(Public Domain – Berkeley Labs

Let us get started with the 11 Questions that I sent over to the ergonomics expert earlier this month. The last three questions were suggested by Mindy due to their importance.

11 Questions to the Ergonomics Expert

1. What, if any, are the differences between ergonomics pre, during, and post-pandemic?

As more people work from anywhere, we are seeing a greater focus on ergonomics in non-traditional workspaces.  Employers are also focusing more on ergonomics in the workplace to encourage workers to return to the office.

2. Are you seeing more assignments for doing analyses for home-based workers?

Yes!  At the start of the pandemic, many people felt that working from home would be temporary.  Now that more people are working full or part-time from home, they are realizing that they need a better workstation set-up to feel more comfortable.

3. Were there any hesitancies by home-based workers to on-site ergonomic analyses?

People are not always comfortable opening their homes to strangers, just as I was hesitant to go into homes.   I have completed a few in-home assessments, but primarily I perform these evaluations over the phone or Zoom.

4. Was there any shift away from back injuries as the most prevalent cause of injuries?

Not that I’ve seen.  According to Liberty Mutual, overexertion injuries were still the most disabling workplace injury in 2022, and many of those injuries involve the back.  People working from home during the pandemic actually saw an increase in discomfort in the back as well as the neck and shoulders.

5. What type of organizations (governmental, large private industry, etc.) use you the most?

I primarily conduct office assessments for corporate customers. I also work with government and military clients delivering training and assisting with policy development.  In addition, I perform industrial evaluations in manufacturing facilities to identify possible ergonomics-related hazards and determine ways to address them.

6. Do employers or insurance companies hire you most often?

Most of my work tends to be on behalf of insurance companies, but I also work with government and private industry clients.

7. As an ergonomics expert, do you work with field case managers/rehab nurses on workers comp files?  If so, have you seen an increase or a decrease in this type of assignment?

I have not worked on workers’ compensation files; however, I would like to see ergonomics incorporated more into return-to-work cases.

8. Has or will AI assist ergonomists in the future? How?

That’s a very interesting question.  I haven’t tried AI, but I believe it could be used for simple workstation assessments that do not involve injuries.

9. Many people work just with a laptop, what advice can you give?

Laptops are not designed for comfortable long-term use.  If the monitor is at eye level, the user has to type at shoulder height.  If the keyboard is at the right height, the user is bending their neck down to view the screen.  The easiest solution is to raise the height of the monitor with books, a box, or a laptop stand so the top of the screen is just below eye level and add a separate keyboard and mouse.  If you wear bifocals, a lower screen height is recommended so that you do not have to tilt your head back to view the screen.

10. I’ve heard a lot about workstations that go up and down to let you sit or stand.  Do I need one to be comfortable?

Alternating sitting and standing promotes muscle movement and blood flow which can help reduce discomfort.  Instead of investing in new furniture, try creating a standing workstation at your kitchen counter or other raised surface in your home.  Prolonged standing is just as fatiguing as prolonged sitting, so you do not need to stand for very long.  If you do not want to stand and work, you can take micro-breaks, which are 60 to 90-second breaks during your day to get out of your chair and move.  In ergonomics, we like to say the best posture is your next posture.  Movement is key to being more comfortable at work.

11. What is the most important piece of advice you have for making people more comfortable at their computers?

Most desks are too tall.  They’re designed so that tall people can get their knees under the desk.   The rest of us end up leaning forward and raising our shoulders to work at a surface that is too high.

Try this exercise to see if this affects you:

Sit at your desk with your elbows touching your torso (not on the armrests of the chair), and place your palms flat on your thighs.  Relax your shoulders by doing a few shoulder rolls.  Notice how your shoulders feel when they are relaxed, and then start typing.  If your shoulders came up when you moved your hands to the keyboard, then your desk is too high.  You should be able to type with your shoulders relaxed and at least a 90-degree angle in your elbows.  If the desk is too tall and not adjustable, it may help to raise the height of your chair or sit on pillows.   If your feet are not resting comfortably on the floor, use a footrest, a box, or a stack of books.

The ergonomics expert can be contacted here –

ErgoSmith Consulting, LLC

www.ErgoSmith.com

[email protected]

919-870-5662

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James J Moore - Workers Comp Expert

Raleigh, NC, United States

About The Author...

James founded a Workers’ Compensation consulting firm, J&L Risk Management Consultants, Inc. in 1996. J&L’s mission is to reduce our clients’ Workers Compensation premiums by using time-tested techniques. J&L’s claims, premium, reserve and Experience Mod reviews have saved employers over $9.8 million in earned premiums over the last three years. J&L has saved numerous companies from bankruptcy proceedings as a result of insurance overpayments.

James has over 27 years of experience in insurance claims, audit, and underwriting, specializing in Workers’ Compensation. He has supervised, and managed the administration of Workers’ Compensation claims, and underwriting in over 45 states. His professional experience includes being the Director of Risk Management for the North Carolina School Boards Association. He created a very successful Workers’ Compensation Injury Rehabilitation Unit for school personnel.

James’s educational background, which centered on computer technology, culminated in earning a Masters of Business Administration (MBA); an Associate in Claims designation (AIC); and an Associate in Risk Management designation (ARM). He is a Chartered Financial Consultant (ChFC) and a licensed financial advisor. The NC Department of Insurance has certified him as an insurance instructor. He also possesses a Bachelors’ Degree in Actuarial Science.

LexisNexis has twice recognized his blog as one of the Top 25 Blogs on Workers’ Compensation. J&L has been listed in AM Best’s Preferred Providers Directory for Insurance Experts – Workers Compensation for over eight years. He recently won the prestigious Baucom Shine Lifetime Achievement Award for his volunteer contributions to the area of risk management and safety. James was recently named as an instructor for the prestigious Insurance Academy.

James is on the Board of Directors and Treasurer of the North Carolina Mid-State Safety Council. He has published two manuals on Workers’ Compensation and three different claims processing manuals. He has also written and has been quoted in numerous articles on reducing Workers’ Compensation costs for public and private employers. James publishes a weekly newsletter with 7,000 readers.

He currently possess press credentials and am invited to various national Workers Compensation conferences as a reporter.

James’s articles or interviews on Workers’ Compensation have appeared in the following publications or websites:

  • Risk and Insurance Management Society (RIMS)
  • Entrepreneur Magazine
  • Bloomberg Business News
  • WorkCompCentral.com
  • Claims Magazine
  • Risk & Insurance Magazine
  • Insurance Journal
  • Workers Compensation.com
  • LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook and other social media sites
  • Various trade publications

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