Since 2003, the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society has designated October as National Ergonomics Month to raise occupational ergonomic awareness. Given our company’s ergonomic underpinnings, this month is particularly important to us.
Back injuries were – and still are – a big issue. Nearly four out of every five people will experience back pain in their lives. Sometimes, that pain resolves itself in about two weeks … but often it doesn’t.
Back in 1983, my father, an occupational health doctor who worked with many companies and knew their workers were getting injured, decided to do something about it. His pioneering work turned into a business he named “Comp Equipment” – with a focus on backs (still the top U.S. workplace injury in terms of cost and lost work days) and on nurses in particular, since they have the highest incidence of back injuries.
BECOMING “WORK DYNAMICS”
A few years later and after I had joined my dad in his noble efforts, I combined the Greek word for work (Ergo) with the Latin word for dynamics (dyne) to rebrand our company. But what’s in a name?
We took a broad look at other ergonomic stressors that were happening in the workplace and asked, “Can we help here?” In addition to our back supports, we eventually designed and sold wrist supports, elbow supports and anti-vibration gloves to address ergonomic concerns. We won a bunch of international awards for a device that transferred patients from one flat surface to another. We had a full-time ergonomist on staff for 15 years. We even created a push notification of sorts – a floppy disk inserted into the CPU that would prompt an office worker to take a stretch break every 2-3 hours.
Ergonomics – or human factors engineering, as it was once known – courses through our company’s veins. All our product managers pay close attention to that heritage and think about how workers engage with our products and about the human elements in the workplace. We’re always thinking about how people engage with our product so we can reduce ergonomic stressors. There’s an ergonomics bent or human element to virtually everything we do.
THE FUTURE OF ERGONOMICS
Over the past three decades, the principles of ergonomics really haven’t changed. Employers are aware of the issues and still put up posters and conduct clinics to encourage exposed workers to stay in shape and use proper body mechanics to do their jobs.
But employers are also looking to mechanization to mitigate those risks and reduce their liability. As more companies reshore and onshore, production facilities have taken out the human element by employing robotics, mechanized ways of lifting and so forth. In the modern factory – which is a controllable environment – you’re seeing many more engineering controls being used in order to reduce back and other ergonomic injuries.
While those are positive changes, the reality is that there will always be risk in the workplace that will be difficult to get rid of. Good news! We can help.