May 11th, 2011

Ergonomics Roundup: Office Layout; Railroad Ergonomics Law Suit; Healthcare; So-Called Ergonomic Products

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Employee Sues Union Pacific Railroad for Not Having Comprehensive Ergonomics Program

Background: In the USA, the Federal Employers Liability Act (FELA) applies specifically to the railroad industry. Instead of being restricted to general industry state-based Workers Compensation rules and compensation rates for injuries, like most other employers and employees in the USA, under FELA, railroad workers are able to sue companies regarding their injury claims. FELA requires the injured railroad workers to prove that the employer was at least partially negligent in causing the injury. Any resulting compensation is often much higher than that provided by state-based Worker’s Compensation for non-railroad workers.

According to an article in the Southeast Texas Record, a railroad employee has filed a lawsuit against Union Pacific Railroad (UPR) concerning ergonomics, or the lack thereof:

A Union Pacific Railroad employee has filed suit against the company, alleging the railroad should have provided a comprehensive ergonomics program to prevent repetitive injuries …

In his suit, Rogers says UPR employed him as a locomotive engineer …

The suit accuses UPR of negligently failing to implement a comprehensive ergonomics program, provide him with an air ride seat and warn him of the of the repetitive trauma he would suffer …

Rogers claims his spine is permanently injured because of his employment, court papers say … Read the full article …

 

Influence of Ergonomics is Expanding in Healthcare

There has been a good deal of attention applied to the ergonomics of patient handling in health care facilities, the benefits of which apply primarily to nurses and orderlies and others whose responsibility includes direct patient handling and assistance. Apparently the positive results of ergonomics interventions are growing awareness of the role of ergonomics in improving caregiver and patient experience, as well as organizational performance. Here are two examples of ergonomics finding a sympathetic ear with Doctors and Surgeons:

From beckershospitalreview.com:

Physicians who want to implement electronic medical records are frustrated at the government’s lack of focus on EMR usability, according to an American Medical News report.

At an April 21 meeting with HHS’ Certification/Adoption Workgroup, physicians expressed their concerns over how EMRs can cut into productivity. According to the news report, one internist from Dubuque, Iowa, explained how a primary care physician needs 10 minutes to navigate an EMR to order a routine mammogram, a process which "should take no more than a few seconds of a clinician’s time," the internist said.

At the meeting, the American Medical Association proposed several recommendations regarding EMR usability, including the following:

  • Vendors seeking certification for their EMR products should be required to address patient safety issues.
  • EMRs should include automated reporting functions.
  • Reporting functions should incorporate protections established by certified patient safety organizations.
  • The ONC should monitor patient safety issues raised by vendors.
  • Information gained from these processes should be analyzed and used to improve patient safety and usability of EMRs.

Read the full article …

 

From a press release describing research for a new cardiovascular intervention surgical product called CorPath® 200 System, which purports to improve ergonomics:

“As the current practice of interventional cardiology evolves into more complex PCI procedures, there is a need for improved safety and ergonomics in the cath lab while improving the efficiency of the procedure,” said Dr. Granada.

Read the full article …

 

Open vs. Closed Office Layouts, Privacy and Politics

The debate surrounding office layout and design will always be present: open, flexible layouts with little or no private space, vs. cubicle farms and private office arrangements. The question isn’t necessarily "which one is the best, period," but instead, "which one is the best fit for our organization, given our management philosophy."

I say this because office design (and all other facility designs) should reflect the actual management philosophy in an organization, not the latest trends in the office design industry. If your company truly embraces a "Lean Journey," for example, then open, flexible space utilization is probably going to work well, because it fosters teamwork and interaction and reduces the ability to separate business activities, and the people who perform them, into tidy little boxes.

If, on the other hand, your organizational management philosophy is top-down, hierarchical, with silo-oriented separation between employees and business functions, then an open office plan could be a disaster.

It’s a chicken and egg question: which comes first; a management philosophy that begs for an open office design; or an open office plan that hopes that some day in the future management will provide an environment that best utilizes flexible spaces, but in the mean time causes strife in the workforce? As always, it must start with management.

This article, "New-Age Workspaces Confuse Office Politics," gives an interesting perspective on the ongoing debate, and quotes Steve Orfield, whose name I recognize as an Ergoweb community member and contributor:

Your colleague can’t stop talking about her new boyfriend to her best friend on the phone. Barely two feet away from you, she’s literally shouting. You can’t help but wish that you had an office to hide out in …

A flexible office has no high-walled cubicles or enclosed, private spaces. Instead, it has low (or no) dividers between work stations, and, in some cases, does away with traditional assigned seating. Desks are doled out on a first-come, first-served basis — a practice called "hotelling" …

"Real estate is now driving office design, without much science in place," says Steve Orfield, president of Orfield Laboratories, a Minneapolis-based architectural and product-research laboratory that works primarily with U.S. corporations. "Flexible offices, hotelling, etc. usually are implemented with no baseline measurement of occupants or the environment, and no measurements after the change."

Orfield is among a number of critics who find the ever-shrinking workspace a troubling development and believes everyone should have an office.

Here’s why … Read the full article …

 

Is It Really Ergonomic?

Regular readers know Ergoweb has an interest in improving the application of ergonomics in product and process design, and in improving the public’s understanding of ergonomics. We recently shared some products we’ve encountered that use ergonomics terminology in their marketing materials, wondering if those claims are accurate (some probably are, some probably aren’t, see Are These Products Ergonomic?). Here are a couple more we came across recently … you be the judge.

Ergonomic Scratcher [for cats ...], from http://buygroomingaidspet.goodpetsupply.com/Ergonomic-Scratcher-Natural-clear-coat-finish

So called "Ergonomic Scratcher" for cats ...

GymGym: The World’s First Ergonomic Exercise Chair

Most people are never taught the proper seating posture and physically correct routines needed to avoid the repetitious movements that continually keep our bodies out of their proper alignment. The results cause a variety of chronic and acute physical health challenges including aches, pains and muscle stiffness that can over time grow into more serious problems, including … Visit GymGym website …



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