Ergonomics, Occupational and Vocational Rehabilitation
It may be easier to understand how I can help you with examples
This company made electronic components. In the last few months before I met them, although nothing seemed to have changed in the shipping department, employees were starting to complain of pain and exertion. They were handling large rolls of around 50-100 pounds but had never complained before. Evaluation of the line process revealed that a change in the labeling was partly responsible: labels which used to be placed on the side and on top of the rolls were now only being placed on top of it. The result was that shipping employees now had to handle the rolls in order to see the labels, since rolls were stacked on top of each others. Working upstream in the process line helped us resolve problems. Furthermore, changes in handling tools and equipment were suggested and successfully implemented.
This worker had been working in a commercial bakery for more than 6 years. After a shoulder / neck strain, she was returned to light duties with the restrictions of avoiding repetitive neck flexion of extension. In all good faith, her employer assigned her to put away files in the office, but the repetition of shoulder motions against resistance sent her in tears to her supervisor’s office before lunch. Thinking that she was putting on a show, her supervisor sent her home until she was “interested to be back to work”. Hurt, she spent the next following months trying to get rid of her pain in physical therapy, massage and acupuncture, while growing more and more bitter towards her employer. Retained in this case to find solutions for return to work (RTW), I evaluated the worker and the work demands, and presented a transitional RTW plan with rehabilitation and performance objectives to both the worker and the employer. In twelve weeks, the worker was back to work, reconciled with her supervisor. The injured worker’s department co-workers implemented some of the suggestions I gave her. After 5 years, she was still working there full time, very happy. So were her supervisor, her employer…and her insurer.
A 26 year-old man working in a department store hurt his back while handling boxes. This man was finishing a computer graduate degree. Despite a low severity diagnosis (back sprain), functional consequences such as sitting tolerance were quite impaired. The insurer’s vocational rehabilitation service worked with the man to help him find suitable work opportunities. All agreed that with his skills and experience, he could work in a call center since he could easily get up and move around as needed. However, a few months after the decision was made official, the man discovered that people working in call centers could not get up at will. Asked to perform a worksite organization and physical demands, I found that workers have to retrieve or input data in the computer at all times during work hours. Therefore, unless the monitor and the keyboard could rise along with the worker, he could not use them while he was standing. Research in the literature on call centers revealed that the work performance quotas are among the highest in the office industries. A large proportion of call centers require overtime and most of them work on 10 hours/shifts. This fact canceled the possibility for the man to be competitive in this domain. Finally, it is not possible for workers to get up and talk, as their voices are carried further when they do it, which is disturbing to their co-workers and hence, discouraged by management. Since no accommodation could be made as he was not an employee of any call center at the time of injury, he was reassigned to vocational rehabilitation, where someone helped him find a more suitable work category.