What Our Clients Say

ErgoFocus on SABC Health Talk

Esmeralda Kerlen was invited to SABC Health talk, on Dstv channel 404. Health Talk is a SABC show covering South African and international health stories, ranging from personal health to policy and analysis.

The particular program on the 6th of September 2017 tackled the subject “Back Ache” from several angles. Ergofocus (Pty) Ltd. was invited to provide expertise input on how back ache can originate from risk factors occurring in the work place. Esmeralda Kerlen explained:

“Promoting ergonomics in the work place via a platform such as the SABC was an excellent opportunity to create more awareness regarding the benefits of improving working conditions in the work place.”
Read more...

New Draft Ergonomic Regulations (Occupational Health and Safety Act)

The Minister has given notice of the new Draft Ergonomics Regulations and invited comment to be received in specified format by the end of April.

The regulations will focus on a comprehensive programme approach to manage primarily physical but also cognitive ergonomics in the workplace.

Regulations-Changing

The new regulations apply to:

  • Any person who is exposed or may be exposed to ergonomic risk factors
  • Suppliers, Manufacturers and Designers

According to the DOL, a few issues within the regulations are left vague on purpose. This is done to see how stakeholders themselves would like to see how these issues are specified. The issues concerned (at a glance) are:

  • Definition of the ‘competent person’
  • The scope of cognitive risk factors.

The draft regulations are open for public comment (see specified form that is to be used in the regulations) until the end of April 2017

Click here to download the new draft regulations

For more information, please contact Esmeralda Kerlen @

Read more...

Ergonomics in Green Buildings

It is becoming more and more important for businesses who want to have their buildings green, that their buildings and interiors also need to have a positive effect on the health and wellbeing of the occupants. This is why ergonomics in green buildings play such a big role.

The need to consider human factors/ergonomics in green building design has been recognised by the Green Building Council of South Africa as an industry standard by launching the Green Star Office Tool in 2008. The GreenStar SA Office tool also encourages the design of a productive, healthy, and comfortable working environment through a focus on indoor environmental quality (IEQ). The factors that determine good IEQ are derived from multiple research sources, including environmental health (Evans,2003), environmental engineering (Heschong, Wright, &Okura, 2002), environmental psychology(Parsons, 1991), and environmental ergonomics (Hedge, 2000).

Credits that can also be obtained for the ergonomic lay-out of workstations and for the use of ergonomically certified furniture, fittings, and equipment, are stipulated in the IEQ-8 Ergonomics. 

The IEQ-8 Ergonomics Credit’s aim is to recognise and reward the choice of ergonomic equipment and design of space that promotes wellbeing, efficiency and effectiveness, essentially providing even more incentive for businesses everywhere to conform to the expected industry standard.

ergonomics in green buildings

It is built up of 2 points, one point is awarded where equipment is deemed ergonomic where it fits the intended user population, and one point is awarded when the employees themselves are set up optimally at their workstations.

Before designing lay outs and purchasing required workplace equipment, it is recommended to seek professional ergonomic guidance. This is advised to ensure that companies will implement lay-outs and equipment that fit the employees to their tasks in a comfortable and efficient manner.

For example, many office chairs that are available on the market, may be labelled “green”, but they often lack one of the 5 basic ergonomic adjustment requirements, resulting in a poor fit for the user. On top of this it is not only the chair that makes an office workstation an ergonomical one. The interrelation between the user, his/her chair, desk, monitor(s), keyboards & mouses, etc needs to be evaluated in order to deem the fit-out ergonomically “correct”.  The inclusion of accessories such as foot rests, laptop stands, and monitor arms, should be part of the standard fit-out of a work station, where the use of these is required.

A poor design and/or purchase runs the risk of not earning the company its ergonomic credits, but also exposing its workforce to an ill suited and potentially injury inducing workplace environment.

South African businesses are finally beginning to move towards a future that recognises the importance of employee workplace comfort and health and, with real tangible benefits now on offer to those who wish to reform their interior workplace design.

Read more...

The Value of Ergonomic Professionals

The value of ergonomic professionals has become almost indespensible. The Osh-act aims to ensure that no harm is done to employees whilst on duty. One aspect in this is that the physical and cognitive abilities of the employee are not exceeded, which may result in harm to the employees, equipment or processes. Ergonomics ensures that companies can comply to this requirement of the OSH-act, but how do you know if the consulting service actually achieves this aim.

Until now there has been no official certification for ergonomic consultants, and it has been up to the client to determine if the consultant has the required training and experience to perform the services required. As ergonomics is a specialised field, it has very often been the consultant who convinces the client that he or she is qualified, not based on any quantifiable standard. The fact that many non-ergonomic professionals have been able up to now to pass themselves off as ergonomists is hurting South Africa’s industries and has put the profession in a negative light.

This has now however changed, as ESSA (Ergonomics Society of South Africa) has, via the PAB (Professional Affairs Board) begun a certification program to ensure that Ergonomists are certified and registered to perform their disciplines. This has resulted in two certifications, CPE (certified professional ergonomist) and CEA (certified ergonomics associate).

A CPE covers the entire breadth and depth of ergonomics knowledge to address complex problems and advanced ergonomics technologies and methods, combined with a vast experience in South African Industries.  A CPE is expected to provide leadership in professional matters, to apply and develop methodologies for analysing, designing, testing, and evaluating systems and thus may undertake the responsibility to perform ergonomics work on interfaces, work stations and work systems.

ergonomic professionals

A Certified Ergonomics Associate (CEA) is an interventionist who applies a general breadth of knowledge to analysis and evaluation of currently operating work systems. The scope of practice of a CEA is limited to the use of commonly accepted tools and techniques for the analysis and enhancement of human performance in existing systems. A CEA may for example be responsible for the co-ordination of an Ergonomics Facilitation team within their own industry to create an awareness of Ergonomics, to identify problems, to implement basic solution and to recognise when to consult a CPE.

These certifications will ensure that the correct type of ergonomist is used for the ergonomics work required in a company, and that this work is done to a professional standard, which should ensure compliance with the aims of the OSH-act. The DOL (department of labour) is currently busy setting up specific guidelines regarding ergonomics which are to be expected to be published for public comments in the second half of 2016.

With this in mind, it should become immediately clear that using the services of a non-ergonomist professional to conduct an ergonomic assessment simply will not add value to your business. If your aim is to improve the efficiency in your workspace, it’s imperative to check that any ergonomist employed by your business is certified by the Ergonomics Society of South Africa (ESSA). In this way, you ensure that your business receives a high quality service where the real ergonomic issues facing your business are dealt with.  

Read more...

Setting Up Your Laptop Correctly.

As we all know, laptops have become the norm for business use versus the traditional desktop, especially as they offer the user considerably more mobility, and thus flexibility. Their cost and performance disadvantage versus desktops has also all but disappeared. When I do office ergonomic assessments, I normally see around 70% of computer users working on laptops in and out of the office, which is a considerable proportion.

The laptop is however a serious compromise when it comes to comfort, it was originally designed for short term use (less than 2 hours per day), but laptop users nowadays exceed this time limit easily, which can potentially be physically damaging to the user over time without considering some basic ergonomic principles.

Firstly, the fixed screen is too low for proper use, and if the screen is raised to the correct height, the mouse and keyboard will be too high. The low screen forces excessive neck flexion, causing possible neck strain, pain and headaches. To be able to use the keyboard and mouse, one needs to place the laptop screen closer to the user’s eyes than recommended, causing eye strain and headaches. Laptops are also fitted with compromised keyboards and mouse’s, which increases the chances of developing a WRULD (Work Related Upper Limb Disorders). A user may experience discomforts such as wrist pains, finger tingling, all the way to serious ailments such as carpal tunnel syndrome.

The solution to this ergonomic problem is threefold:

  1. A laptop stand will increase the height of the laptop screen, so that the user can look directly at the screen, instead of looking down at the screen. Also, the laptop screen will be able to be placed at the correct distance from the users eyes.
  2. A separate mouse and keyboard will be required to allow for a laptop stand to be used comfortably. Also, the keyboard and mouse will now be full sized, able to be correctly placed on the desk, and be ergonomically sound.
  3. The keyboard and mouse must be positioned within the users work zone, and the screen must be placed at the correct distance and height from the user’s eyes.

A simple diagram shows the difference:

2

This easy and relatively cheap solution will greatly increase productivity and decrease the typical laptop user’s discomfort, which I am sure we are all aware of, and most probably suffer from at the end of a day; headaches, dizziness, sore eyes, back pain, neck pain and tingling arms. In some cases, this will result in sick leave being taken, without the cause/effect being known.

The advantage of an increase in productivity of a (relatively expensive) laptop user, or the costs of absenteeism in the same employee, means the ROI of a correctly set up employee is normally on average less than a month.  A no-brainer I would say!

Read more...

Ergonomics for Welders

 In my work I often conduct ergonomic risk assessments on welders, who regularly indicate that they suffer from neck and shoulder pains. Managers and co-workers react surprised, as the job does not seem to be very stressful to the untrained eye. If one is to expect problems, it should surely be a result from the static posture of the wrist and/or from the negative results from static standing? But if one looks at the welder’s head posture combined with the helmet, one can start to understand the problem.

welding

The weight of a welder’s helmet, especially the older models, is considerable. The welding itself nearly always happens at some awkward angle, which means the welder’s head, with helmet, is nearly always at a forward tilted angle. The neck and shoulder muscles then need to counteract the weight of the head and the weight of the helmet, which causes increased strain on these muscles. As a welder needs to concentrate on the weld, he doesn’t alternate this posture often, which results in reduced blood flow and a build up of waste products in the muscles. As a result, early fatigue is a given, which subsequently may bring a reduction in the quality of the weld. And that brings us to the main problem, duration. In South Africa, a welder can sometimes assume these welding postures for up to 8-12 hours a day, depending on the nature of the shift. In the long term, these long duration (static) postures may even cause permanent damage to the spinal column.


Welders have not traditionally had the attention they deserve with regards to the musculoskeletal risks associated with their work, and I believe their physical complaints are not treated with the urgency they deserve. The problem is also one of economics; South Africa, with it skills shortage in the trades, can ill afford lower productivity or absenteeism from this group of workers in our economy.

But what can we do to minimise this risk? There is not a single solution, but rather a collection of small changes in equipment, work layout and behaviour which should improve the situation:

  • -          Use the lightest possible welding helmet.
  • -          Do not “nod” the helmet down over the face, or rather use an auto dimming helmet.
  • -          Optimise the workstation, to ensure that the work piece is at an optimal position; this can be achieved by using positioners, for example. If the work piece is large and placed on the floor, try and place it on a, in height adjustable, turn table and use stools and knee protection. This will assist in reducing the necessity to assume a forward flexed posture of the head, and decrease reach to the work piece.
  • -          Take regular breaks, and perform stretching exercises during these breaks.

As welders perform different duties in different companies and are often part of the maintenance team, it is important not to overlook the maintenance team when conducting an ergonomics assessment and identify these possible risks. If the welder is able to conduct their tasks in a more “comfortable” position, and get the job done quicker, shut down times of machinery can also be reduced. 

Read more...

What is Ergonomics

 The word "Ergonomics" comes from two Greek words "ergon," meaning work, and "nomos" meaning "laws." Today, however, the word is used to describe the science of "designing the job to fit the worker, not forcing the worker to fit the job." Ergonomics covers all aspects of a job, from the physical stresses it places on joints, muscles, nerves, tendons, bones and the like, to environmental factors which can effect hearing, vision, and general comfort and health.

Are ergonomics and human factors the same thing?

So what is ergonomics (or human factors)? Are they the same thing?

Essentially yes, they are different terms with the same meaning but one term may be more in favour in one country or in one industry than another. They can be used interchangeably but it’s pretty cumbersome to read “ergonomics and human factors”, so throughout this website we’ve used whichever of the two terms is more often used in that context.

Ergonomics is about designing for people, wherever they interact with products, systems or processes. We usually don’t notice good design (unless perhaps, it’s exceptional) because it gives us no cause to, but we do notice poor design. The emphasis within ergonomics is to ensure that designs complement the strengths and abilities of people and minimise the effects of their limitations, rather than forcing them to adapt. In achieving this aim, it becomes necessary to understand and design for the variability represented in the population, spanning such attributes as age, size, strength, cognitive ability, prior experience, cultural expectations and goals. Qualified ergonomists are the only recognised professionals to have competency in optimising performance, safety and comfort. The IEHF is the only body in the UK managing and representing this competency.

Practitioners study how people interact with products, processes and environments day to day in order to improve them, to make them easier to use, safer, more comfortable, more efficient. They take into account and apply relevant research to help with this and to suggest recommendations. But none of this can happen without a thorough knowledge and understanding of the users and their experiences.

Applying good ergonomics will make a product easy to use, it will help make a manufacturing process efficient, it will make furniture comfortable, it will contribute to safety, it will add many of the dimensions a product, system or environment needs to make it fit for purpose.

Read more...

Creating the perfect Workstation

Workcenter Positioning-sWorkstation design can have a big impact on your overall health and well being. Some problems have already been discussed, but there are a multitude of other discomforts which can result from ergonomically incorrect computer workstation set-ups. For example, poor chairs and/or bad posture can cause lower back strain; or a chair that is too high can cause circulation loss in legs and feet.

The chair is actually a very important part of a comfortable workstation. You want a chair that is lightly padded or upholstered. Adjust the height so that the backs of the knees are not in contact with the seat, and your feet are flat on the floor or footrest. Adjust the back of the chair so that it presses against the small of the back. If the chairback is not adjustable, some people may find it comfortable to use a small pillow for support instead.

It is important to listen to the signals your body sends to you. If you find that your shoulders ache after a long day at the computer, see how you are holding your shoulders while you are working. Are you holding them up to keep your wrists at a comfortable angle? If so, maybe you need to raise your chair up so you can relax your shoulders while maintaining a comfortable angle for your wrists. If that places an uncomfortable pressure on the back of your legs because of the chair edge, get a footrest. Your body will tell you where the problems are. You simply need to analyse what you are doing and correct potential problems. 

Proper Seated Position

  • A – The height of your work surface should allow you to work without reaching or bending. Arrange commonly used items such as staplers and phones so that they are within easy reach.
  • B – Forearms should be parallel to the floor and at an approximate 90 degree angle from your upper arms.
  • C – Wrists, neck and head should be in a relaxed neutral position – not angled up or down.
  • D – The distance between your eyes and the monitor should be at least 15.7” or more – typically arms’ length.
  • E – The top one-third of your computer screen should be positioned at or below eye level.
  • G -Adjust the height of your seat so that your feet are resting firmly on the floor. Use a foot rest if you feel that your feet are not properly supported.
  • H – The depth of your seat should allow the back of your knees to extend beyond the edge of your seat. Thighs should be approximately parallel to the floor.

 

Read more...
Subscribe to this RSS feed