Walter Chun, principal, OSHCON Inc.
Q: What are your top recommendations to employers regarding ergonomic safety and office design?
A: The first recommendation I would make is for someone to look at what he or she has or what he or she is going to be doing. If it’s a new business, they clearly should have somebody work with them to establish suitable workstations for their kind of work. If it’s an existing business with existing workstations, I would go and get a survey from a certified ergonomics specialist. And, again, there’s no cure for this problem. What you are looking at are the best things that you can do to make that particular workstation suitable for that particular worker.
Q: What are the most common mistakes that employers or businessowners make?
A: Ignoring the problem. As I said earlier, it’s a complex issue. Employers, especially of small businesses, spend all of their energy just trying to survive, especially today, so they don’t have the time to look at it. It’s not an easily understood issue, and so they ignore it. One of the problems with ergonomics — and really it’s musculoskeletal disorders—is it takes a while before you see an impact. You could have exposure today, especially with younger workers, and you won’t see a problem with them until a couple of years from now. It’s easier to say, “Well, I’ll do it tomorrow. I’ll look at it tomorrow when it becomes a problem. I don’t have the problem today.” So exposure to repetitive motion, improper workstations, those kinds of things are not high on everybody’s priority lists.
Q: If I work at a desk with a computer and could just buy one thing, what should I get?
A: If you were to buy one thing, I would get a good mouse pad for your hand. Because you spend the bulk of your time on that mouse, so the amount of stress to your hand is higher. The one thing I would do is get a mouse pad. I always look at the mouse pad first, only because of that.