A new way to reduce work-related injuries

Recent studies have shown that teaching employees stress management and how to control their symptoms and can be effective strategies to reducing work-related injuries in the long run.

The first study was conducted at the University of California in 2002 by Faucett et al.  They found that ergonomic training and biofeedback were helpful in reducing work-related injury for the first eight months of their study.  But after 1.5 years, it was found that the group that learned how to control symptoms and stress by cognitive-behavioral therapy techniques were found to have the least symptom severity.

Another study conducted in Australia in 1994 by Savery and Wooden found that there is strong support to show that stress contributes to injuries in the workplace.  The stressor that seems to have the biggest relationship to stress is the frequency of daily hassles over and about the occurrence of stressful life events.  They recommended stress management intervention for stressors outside of work and that such programs should be a priority to improve the ability of employees to cope with and respond to stress.

And yet another study conducted in 2003 at the University of Mississippi by Dahl et al, examined the effects of Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) intervention on public health sector workers who showed chronic stress/pain.  At post and 6-month follow-up, ACT participants showed fewer sick days and used fewer medical treatment resources than those in the control group.

Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is based on the idea that thoughts cause feelings and behaviors, not external things, like people, situations, and events according to the National Association of Cognitive-Behavioral Therapists.  CBT works towards changing thoughts so people can feel better and act better.  Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) differs in that it teaches people how to embrace and accept things in their life “just as they are”.

Both CBT and ACT can be used in a work environment to teach employees how to control symptoms and stress before work-related injuries happen.  This research is exciting because it illustrates a different way of dealing with work-related injuries that has the potential to help many people avoid unnecessary pain and discomfort.


The latest and the greatest – Will ergonomic products solve your woes?

Many people get very excited when new “cutting-edge” products come out on the market.  They believe that the right product will solve all their problems.  Unfortunately this is rarely the case, resulting in disappointment and discouragement in the field of ergonomics.

The most important thing is to remember that ergonomic products should be fully adjustable to fit any user.  Research before you buy and make sure adjustability is present.  Another important feature is simplicity – the product has to be easy to use or it won’t be used effectively.  And always, ergonomic products always should be accompanied by ergonomic training for full effectiveness.

As an example, ergonomic office chairs are only ergonomic if they can be adjusted fully.  Many chairs are promoted as “ergonomic”, but in fact don’t have a lot of the required adjustments and rely more on a new look (e.g. different fabric, funky-looking headrests)  A proper ergonomic chair would have backrest angle adjustment, backrest height, adjustable lumbar support, seat depth adjustment, and armrest height adjustment to name a few.  But all the buttons and levers to make these adjustments usually confuse people and they end up not using the features that could be helpful.  Ergonomic training on how to adjust your ergonomic chair is needed, and it needs to be reinforced consistently.  Simplicity in the buttons and levers is also needed.

Some products over the past several years have been very beneficial ergonomically.  Mice that allow your hand to rest in a handshake position takes the pressure off forearm muscles and the wrist/carpal tunnel.  Keyboards without the numeric keypad on the right allows you to bring your mouse closer, reducing reaching and leaning with the right arm.  These are especially helpful because the concept is simple and the amount of ergonomic training required to use these devices is minimal.  To me, that’s the most effective type of ergonomic product around.