Conducting ergonomic assessments for your in-house employees is most likely, by now, a straight forward process for both small and large companies. Either your company's ergonomic assessor conducts the assessments or you hire a professional ergonomic consultant to come in and solve the issues.
What about those employees who are working in other cities or rural areas, where your ergonomic team does not travel and sending out a professional consultant is financially prohibitive? Unfortunately, often these folks do not get the responsive ergonomic services that their "closer to home" coworkers do.
After interviewing some local companies, it seems that company ergonomics are not always equally accessible to all, and this leaves those employees outside of the geographical "ergozone" at greater risk for injury, and the employer at greater risk of incurring big costs related to workplace injuries.
Even some national and international companies who have made significant investments in their sound ergonomic programs, have overlooked the ergonomic safety of their employees who are working out in the field, those working in small towns, rural communities and especially the remote workers who have minimal connection with the hub of the company located in the major centres.
Having Job Demands Analysis (JDA's) and Safe Work procedures in place, are a great start in the prevention of injuries for these remote employees, but early intervention is the best tool for preventing signs of discomfort and pain from morphing onto costly disability claims and lost time.
Virtual Ergonomic Assessments may be the key to the fast response, early intervention ergonomic service, these remote employees require. Videoconferencing is a great way to solve ergonomic issues but is only practical if the equipment supports are in place in the remote areas. The good news is that if the employee has access to a computer and the internet they will have access to a virtual ergonomic assessment. These can take place in a variety of formats, from sharing digital photos and video, troubleshooting through email or downloadable forms, to using Skype and other online tools.
The ergonomic assessor simply requires a visual of the workstation set up or work being done, some anthropometrics (measurements of the body), equipment measurements and an idea of the essential job demands being conducted to solve many ergonomic issues and offer recommendations for behavioural, administrative and engineering changes.
Ergonomics should be accessible to all and not cost an arm or a leg.....literally.
Marnie Courage, OT Reg(MB)