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 25 of 31

F E A T U R E 26 employees set up a working home office. For example, in May, tech giant Twitter said that "all employees, including hourly workers, will receive reimbursement toward their home office setup expenses, and we are working with our vendors to ensure our contractors' work-from-home needs are met as well. We listened to employee feedback and expanded our policy to include home office equipment, such as desks, desk chairs and ergonomic chair cushions." This may be a step forward and an example for other companies looking to transition into working from home in the long term. This ties into one of the big concerns with working from home currently, which is that, due to the quick onset of the virus, employees started working from home out of necessity, rather than choice. "There's definitely a difference between the rapid movement to working from home as opposed to a more measured approach," says Gargiulo. The biggest challenge, he says, is that with the rapidity of the move, there was not time to establish proper processes and guidelines. Furthermore, workers may not have access to things such as standardized equipment or other equipment that could help with working from home. And these things are difficult to answer on the fly. Many workers may not even still have this equipment available to them. Gargiulo says another big challenge is the lack of control of what is available to employees in their home environment because there wasn't the opportunity for planning or budgeting and not all home workers have dedicated spaces. Returning to work For those businesses bringing their employees back to the office, they are looking into how they can physically distance from customers or clients (or from other employees), but it is important to "make sure that when you're making these accommodations, you're not putting the worker more at risk," says Village. "It's important to also consider whether that modification is going to increase the risk of musculoskeletal disorders." Adds Gargiulo, "I think there's pieces of the office environment that pertain to ergonomics that are going to be introduced as a result of COVID-19 that are associated with risks." For example, he says, if you install partitions for socially distanced delivery, acceptance and receipt of goods, what postures does that introduce? "Those are important things that we have to think about." What are other things that people should be aware about returning to work? "Body position is probably the most important," says Gargiulo. "As people get back to the office, they've obviously developed new and different habits. Even if it's a familiar place, it's going to be different." "I think there's pieces of the office environment that pertain to ergonomics that are going to be introduced as a result of COVID-19 that are associated with risks." Nick Gargiulo, product manager at Cority Enviance and health, safety and ergonomics expert relationship to the workplace. Working from home and doing online meetings may even result in more screen time, making the risk of MSDs even greater, says Village. She says there's no real difference between ergonomics best practices in the office space and at home. One needs the best postures possible and "be aware of early signs and symptoms [of MSDs], says Village. If you start to get an ache in the neck or in the wrist, could there be something [you're] doing in [your] setup at home? Troubleshooting can be done to prevent that posture, that pain and ache from happening." She says it is very important to be conscious of these early signs and symptoms. Similar to an office environment, you should do a lot of movements in your day and vary your tasks. Again, if you have an issue that is more serious, then you need to get an ergonomic assessment by a certified ergonomist. With physical distancing ergonomists can still do remote assessments, assures Village. Some companies are helping their ASSOCIATION OF CANADIAN ERGONOMISTS KEY FACTS Source: Association of Canadian Ergonomists (ACE) WHO? WHAT? WHERE? WHEN? The Association of Canadian Ergonomists/ Association Canadienne d'Ergonomie (ACE) has more than 500 members. It is a bilingual professional association created to advance the knowledge and skills of ergonomics and human factors. ACE has five regional chapters: Atlantic, Quebec, Ontario, Prairie & Northern, British Columbia/Yukon. ACE was established in 1968.

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