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Proper ergonomics: Small adjustments, big impact

As an HR professional, you probably walk the halls of your company to say “hello” to your colleagues. And maybe you see an employee take a moment’s break from staring at his computer to rub his neck and tip his or her head from side to side. This is so common, perhaps you don’t even notice it. But when does it become an issue?

For Bradley Capener, a federal program coordinator for the Salem-Keizer School District in Oregon, it was when a complication of sciatica and lumbar disc generation turned into acute back pain. Add neck and wrist pain, too, and it’s no wonder Capener noted his concentration and productivity was impacted. He reached out to William White from the school district’s Risk Management department for help. The school district had disability insurance through The Standard, and was able to connect Capener with the Workplace Possibilities program for assistance.

“One of the advantages of the Workplace Possibilities program is the autonomy under which the workplace consultants work with our employees,” said White. “Once we connected The Standard directly with Capener, the process was out of our hands and conveniently handled by the Workplace Possibilities team.”

An ergonomic evaluation — completed by Ben Lumsden, a Workplace Possibilities vocational consultant who specializes in occupational therapy — determined if workstation accommodations could help reduce his pain. Providing simple adjustments can have a major impact on reducing employee absences and increasing employee productivity. Plus, the cost of equipment or tools that help an employee do their job may be covered by the Workplace Possibilities’ Reasonable Accommodation Expense Benefit, like it was for the Salem-Keizer School District in this case.

Lumsden included three important elements in Capener’s ergonomic evaluation, including:

Measurements
Sitting at a desk that’s the wrong height or using equipment that’s poorly placed can cause major strain on various body parts. For Capener, his desk was the wrong fit for his 6 foot 4 inch frame. Lumsden completed measurements seated and standing, measuring Capener’s femur length, knee height, elbow height and eye line to determine proper equipment placement and complete a chair fitting.

Adjustability
Capener had consistent pain in his back, and it was difficult for him to sit at his desk for more than 15 minutes at a time. The solution for Capener was an adjustable three-stage work surface that allowed him to transition from sitting to standing whenever he wanted to alleviate his discomfort. Now, he’s able to stand most of the time and says his pain has been dramatically reduced.

Combined Accommodations
Just like it wasn’t only back pain that was preventing Capener from being productive, it wasn’t just a desk or chair that helped alleviate his pain. Neck tension, wrist pain and tingling in his hands were issues, too. Lumsden’s holistic evaluation determined that dual-articulating monitor arms would adjust to meet his line of sight, mitigating neck strain. An ergonomically designed keyboard tray also allowed him to rest his arms and hands to eliminate the tingling sensation he previously experienced.

“The workstation changes have been extremely helpful and have alleviated my chronic back pain now that I stand most of the time at my desk,” Capener said. “My wrists don’t hurt anymore, my neck feels more relaxed and I’m more productive as a result.” For more about Capener’s accommodation, read our latest case study.

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  1. […] “The workstation changes have been extremely helpful and have alleviated my chronic back pain now that I stand most of the time at my desk,” Capener said. “My wrists don’t hurt anymore, my neck feels more relaxed and I’m more productive as a result.” For more about Capener’s accommodation, read our latest case study. […]

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