Beware “ergonomic” firms who oversell “ergonomic” furniture including Sit to Stand Workstations says OPC Inc.

1. OPC Inc conducted a QUALITATIVE ERGONOMIC CLIENT Study following our Client’s move to their new building located in Toronto ON. For the purposes of this qualitative study we reviewed the First Floor & Sub Floor where there were a total of 29 workstations sold to and installed by a well known “ergonomic” firm who also sells furniture and seating products. (each workstation cost this client $3,000.00 per unit plus the adjustable keyboard trays were $300 per unit and adjustable monitor arms $250 each).
Our client did not request our presence unfortunately in any of the design, build, move meetings. This meant the Interior Designers and Facility Managers for our client made decisions about furniture, design, seating and accessories in the absence of our Job Demands Analysis data and data collected over a period of 6 years about ergonomic and accommodation issues and trends. It would have been at that phase of their project where we would have let the client know that only 10% of the employees have job demands which dictated the use of a sit to stand workstation and if used, that there would need to be extensive training + education + supervision so these would be used properly and regularly.

The result: The client not only purchased electric sit to stand workstations for ALL employees they were further oversold on the addition of adjustable keyboard trays plus adjustable monitor arms attached to each of the already adjustable sit to stand workstations. The purpose of this blog is not to comment on the ethics of a furniture company/dealer overselling a client on furniture or accessories which have no basis in the science of ergonomics. We will recommend however as a companys’ Interior Designer, Facility Manager and Purchasing Manager that you truly become a well informed buyer who is aware and uses the experience and expertise of ergonomists who DO NOT REPRESENT lines of furniture, equipment, tools, seating or represent a rehabilitation company.

The majority of employees with sit to stand desks do not use them properly.

The majority of employees with sit to stand desks do not use them properly.

Study Observation; over a period of 3 hours OPC’s team of Ergonomists interviewed the employees about how they were using the sit to stand workstations, the new seating products, the KB tray and Monitor riser. Direct observation of the 29 workstations on the 2 floors also took place over a course of 3.0 hours. This time was spread out over the course of the day to see if employees were changing postures or altering how they worked relative to the capabilities of the workstations, chairs, KB trays and monitor arms.

During this observation period we found 0 out of 29 employees changed the height of the sit to stand workstation and/or KB tray relative to their sitting postures. 0/29 used the workstations in a standing posture; 0/29 adjusted the KB trays or monitor arms aside from the workstations when commencing work or changing tasks.

Interviews found that only 60% of employees had attended the formal training about the workstations and how to adjust them properly. Of this over 78% of all employees stated they either did not have time to change the workstations to a standing posture or that they did not see any benefit to this when they originally tried to adjust the workstations.

Conclusions:: Our study and findings make a strong indication for the following to occur in each and every design, renovate, move project your company is undertaking.

1. Hire the services of qualified and experienced ergonomists who can prove their success in these types of projects
2. Ask the Ergonomist if they represent ANY lines of furniture, accessories, seating or rehabilitation companies.
3. Ask the Ergonomist if they regularly review furniture, seating, accessories using the BIFMA Ergonomic Standards so they understand the furniture and design standards being considered by your company.
4. Have the Ergonomist work closely with the architects, interior designer, purchasing and facility managers in the design phases of the project to ensure both the Ontario Build Code (AODA) and Ministry of Labour for Ontario’s/WCB’s Ergonomic standards are abided by.
5. Have the Ergonomist work closely with the architects, interior designer, purchasing and facility managers in the decision making phases of the project to ensure both well designed furniture, accessories and seating products are chosen which guarantee meeting the Ontario Build Code (AODA) and Ministry of Labour for Ontario’s/WCB’s Ergonomic standards.
6. Have the Ergonomist present during the “move in phase” of the project so that formal education and training can occur for ALL employees. This should include why and how to use the furniture, seating and accessories properly. This approach will ensure the ergonomist helps your people who may need accommodation support having individual time with the ergonomist to review issues and determine if there are further accommodations required including technology and software & even issues associated with noise & an inability to focus in the case of more open office designs.

Putting these simple and cost effective steps into place for ALL design – renovate —build – move projects by your organization will prevent the overselling of products to your company; well ensure the correct ergonomic and accessibility standards are in place to support all employees physical, sensory and cognitive requirements; will lower corporate risk relative to both Ministry/WCB, AODA compliance & Human Rights Code standards; will impact both the quality of work produced by and output by each employee. This approach will also enhance customer service outcomes by having employees who are given the right tools and equipment to complete their jobs with enhanced abilities for your customers and clients.

B. Many employers in Canada are asking us, OPC Inc’s Policy Writing team to develop Policies for them around Sit to Stand Workstation issues. As well we are being asked to develop Policy regarding not accepting Physician’s notes stating your organization must purchase Sit to Stand Workstations for their patient/your employee. We are able to provide this service for your company along with other Ergonomic and Accessibility related Policies, Procedures and Practices:

In the interests of providing evidence based ergonomics and solutions at OPC Co. the following represents Best Practice as to if a Sit to Stand workstation is to be recommended to OPC Co. employees and professionals. A Sit-to-Stand workstation may be recommended if A. you have a bona fide medical condition that is amenable to sitting and standing during each work day with standing not to exceed 30 minutes B. you have proof you do not have any underlying medical conditions which can be aggravated by standing postures such as high blood pressure, varicose veins, a tendency to develop swelling in the ankles/calves, a history of ANY cardiac issues, risk for DVT (Deep Vein Thrombosis), postural hypotension C. the job demands causes the employee to HAVE to sit for long periods of time (1 hour and longer) with no or limited ability to stand and walk during regular breaks, micro-breaks, phone calls. This includes call centres, customer care centres, computer programming or Sr level executives who regularly work 8 + hours per day in sitting as part of their job demands.

There are many other solutions including equipment/tools/seating which OPC Inc. can and will provide following ergonomic assessments. These when combined with a change in work health behaviours can play an even more effective role in enhancing levels of comfort and function in the workplace.

Contact us at AODA@optimalperformance.ca ask for Carla or Jamila to set up a meeting to discuss how OPC Inc can provide expert Policy, Procedure & program development for both Ergonomic and AODA related programs.

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