Canadian Occupational Safety

July/August 2020

Canadian Occupational Safety (COS) magazine is the premier workplace health and safety publication in Canada. We cover a wide range of topics ranging from office to heavy industry, and from general safety management to specific workplace hazards.

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Page 23 of 31

F E A T U R E 24 FINDING THE RIGHT FIT As many businesses make plans for employees to return to the workplace, now is the perfect time to hit the refresh button and take a look at how to optimize office ergonomics. NOT necessarily the first thing that comes to mind when you think of workplace hazards, ergonomics is steadily becoming a more widespread concern for offices around the country. While more physically demanding jobs in construction or manufacturing come with their own set of ergonomic concerns, traditional office spaces can be dangerous if ergonomic concerns are not addressed. Repetitive strain injury (RSI) is serious enough to limit normal activities, reports Workplace Safety North (WSN). Indeed, one in every 10 Canadian adults suffers from RSI. Approximately 2.3 million Canadians aged 20 and over (around 10 per cent of the population) have reported having an RSI the previous year, according to a Statistics Canada study conducted in 2003. And the numbers are growing every year. It is important to highlight that even workers in sedentary jobs can develop work-related musculoskeletal disorders (WMSDs) over time. For office workers, this can manifest as workplace guidelines will affect current ergonomics guidelines. Getting educated Dr. Judy Village, certified professional ergonomist (human factors consultant) and president of the Association of Canadian Ergonomists, says that "all workplaces need to provide education and awareness of MSDs and how they occur and how best to set up workspaces and equipment." This is one of the most important things workplaces can do and a good place to start regarding good ergonomic practices. carpal tunnel syndrome, thoracic outlet syndrome or even tension neck syndrome. Office workers can develop issues with their hands, wrists, elbows, neck, shoulders and even back pain. This year, due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, most office workplaces have been disrupted and many office workers have been working from home. With many businesses now making plans to gradually re-open workplaces, it is a great time to re-evaluate ergonomics best practices in the office, best practices working from home and whether new Indeed, before anything, Village says, first and foremost, people need to be educated and aware about early signs and symptoms of MSDs and how to set themselves up properly to avoid these. She says that everyone's physical size, office space and tasks are different, so "you've got to understand your own job and job demands to find the right fit." How are ergonomics guidelines enforced in the workplace? Is it something for which workplace inspectors look? Village says that it really depends on the jurisdiction. Certainly, in Canada this can vary from province to province. For example, in British Coumbia, inspectors should be looking at ergonomic practices very carefully under the ergonomics regulations. There are also federal ergonomics requirements for federal employees. Having the right equipment So, what is the second step after getting educated? "The second [step] would be to make sure that you have the right equipment and accessories to make sure that you can achieve optimal postures. People need to know what optimal postures look like," says Village. For example, if you're working with a laptop, you may want to have a spare keyboard or monitor so that you can get at the right height for both the arms/ wrists and the neck, she says. How important is it to have specific equipment and what kind of budget should companies devote to ergonomics tools? "It's a hard question," says Village. "It depends on the workplace and a worker's fit. A lot of companies will provide a standardized workstation and standardized accessories. For this to accommodate the majority of workers, the key is to make sure that they're adjustable. "For a small percentage who don't have a good fit with standardized equipment, they may require something more." For example, if you've got someone with wrist problems, they may benefit from a specific mouse. It really depends on the worker and their interaction with the equipment and the tasks they perform, says Village. Nick Gargiulo, product manager at Cority Enviance and a health, safety, and ergonomics expert, says that standing desks can be a great piece of any ergonomic recommended equipment, but it's really up to the business to define what it can and is willing to offer. Other pieces of equipment that are available to people are external devices such as keyboards, mice, monitors, etc. As much as getting "All workplaces need to provide education and awareness of MSDs and how they occur and how best to set up workspaces and equipment." Dr. Judy Village, president of the Association of Canadian Ergonomists

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