If you’ve ever been asked to provide ergonomics training and workstation evaluations for hundreds (or thousands) of employees in a call center, you know that one-on-one delivery of ergonomics services has some serious limitations:
Given all these considerations, it’s a fool’s errand to think you alone can have a lasting impact on ergonomics in a large call center.
There is a better way. On-line tools can provide basic instruction and resolve many common issues with no need for a site visit. If a site visit is necessary, the user who completes an on-line course prior to your visit can be ready to process your advice at a higher level. And, with a good on-line program, the user will have materials to refer back to long after you are gone. Retention and reinforcement of better work methods is greatly enhanced.
Simple Rules, Analysis Tools, Expert Ergonomics. Office ergonomics is not rocket science, but former NASA scientist Brian Peacock’s 70, 20, 10 ergonomics rule* forms a great foundation.
Simple Rules: 70% of all office ergonomics issues can be resolved with simple rules and guidelines. Because the equipment, tasks, risk factors, and solutions are often similar, web-based programs are perfect for sharing basic ergonomics rules. I advise a simple three-step process;
Short, sweet, and to the point.
Analysis Tools: 20% of your users may have some issues that require more detail or some alternative ways of working. In my web-based tool, the posture evaluation provides more guidance if there is an issue. Users with ergonomic or discomfort issues are presented with alternative solutions and different media choices (static web pages, video, or document downloads). In some instances the user is asked to partner with a co-worker to assist in the posture assessment and adjustment of things like the monitor or keyboard height. This can free up the experts time for more significant cases.
Expert Ergonomics: Web based tools won’t help everyone. Approximately 10% of your users don’t get it or have other more involved issues. This is where you want to spend extra time and money to send an expert. These cases have the potential to become expensive if a claim arises. In these instances I still prefer having materials on a web site or user’s inbox. Here is why I believe having reference material on the computer is better:
Ergonomics Works, On-line Ergonomics Works Too. We know from published reports that ergonomics programs can be effective. The evidence for on-line approaches is promising.
Do the numbers. There are only so many hours in a day and days in a week. If you work for an organization with a lot of computer users or distributed locations there is just no way you and your colleagues can get to all who need your services.
Extend your reach. By providing on-line services you can extend your reach and provide your employees with anywhere anytime assistance. With an on-line program you can train hundreds of employees for the cost of one MSD.
Focus on high risk cases. Don’t send experts for high-volume screening efforts. Instead, send experts to high risk groups and known problem areas.
* 70, 20, 10 rule discussed at a professional development conference. These percentiles presented here for illustrative purposes only.
Gene Kay has a Masters degree in Exercise Science and is a Certified Ergonomics Associate. He has been designing web-based ergonomics programs for 10 years, and owns the ErgoAdvocate Ergonomics Training program. Gene has served as the American Express Global Ergonomics Manager, a Rehab Services Manager, and is Past-President of the Upper Midwest Chapter of HFES.