by Jennie Gober, AEP
I must confess—I don’t spend a lot of time in the kitchen. I’m not a great cook, but I still love kitchen gadgets! As we’ve mentioned in previous blog posts, an “ergonomic” label on a product may not mean much, but here are three items that I consider truly ergonomic, and that help me in my kitchen:
- Right-angle knife. If food preparation requires repetitive movements, this is a great knife to have. It enables you to chop veggies or trim meat with neutral hand and wrist postures. Neutral postures are especially important if you’re applying force as you cut, for example, when chopping carrots. Check out this complete line of kitchen utensils, which enable you to maintain a power grip while working in the kitchen.
- Tilting cake stand. If you’ve ever watched someone ice a cake, you might notice that they use several different awkward postures as they do it, like bending the neck in all different directions to view all sides of the cake and “winging-out” their elbows as they try to make sure they get frosting where it needs to be. Consider using a tilting cake stand for this task. It not only tilts, but rotates, so you can easily access all sides of the cake. The tilt function enables you to view your work while maintaining more neutral back, neck, and elbow postures as you decorate.
- Step stool. Ok, this isn’t a kitchen gadget, but I feel it’s a must-have for any kitchen, and is very often overlooked. It seems like on those rare occasions when I do cook, I’m looking for a spice that only gets pulled out once a year, or I want to serve the meal on a platter tucked away on a high shelf, just waiting for a special occasion. A step stool will enable you to easily access all of your cabinet shelves, so that you don’t have to stand on your tiptoes to reach your great-grandmother’s gravy boat. Step stools also enable you to access items without having to crawl on top of your counter—always a safety concern! Keep your step stool within easy reach to increase the likelihood that you will use it when you need it most.
I’m sure many of you out there are avid cooks and have found some great tools that make your time in the kitchen easier and more enjoyable. What are your must-have ergonomic kitchen gadgets?
By Jennie Gober, AEP
Lately, it seems like the news has been nothing but concerns about job markets, national debts, and the global economic crisis. A post by George Stroumboulopoulus comments on the recently-changed retirement ages in Canada and France. Canada increased their retirement age to 67, while France lowered it to 60. This news is sure to be another factor (positive or negative, depending on who you ask) in the performance of companies.
From an ergonomics perspective, what do these changes to the retirement age mean for businesses? In Canada, it may result in the need to redesign workstations and tasks to ensure aging populations are capable of performing job tasks. Does this mean that France, with its lowered retirement age, can just hire young, strong employees? Of course not! One of the issues with having your workforce retire sooner is that you lose engaged, skilled workers and have to fill those positions with younger, less-skilled workers. Learning any new job takes time – over time, you learn the “right way” and the “wrong way” to do a job. Time and time again, I hear “experienced” employees say how they perform a task now is very different from how they did it five or ten years ago. That sentiment is generally followed by a statement like, “I tell these young kids that just because they can do it a certain way, doesn’t mean they should. They’ll feel it later in life.”
In 2010, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that over 25% of injuries requiring days away from work occurred within the first year of employment, possibly a result of taking risks and shortcuts that an older employee has learned to avoid. To ensure that both younger and older populations can perform the tasks, provide work environments where tasks can always be performed the “right way”.
What are some changes your company has made to address the aging workforce? (Check out Josh Kerst’s recent interview with Inside E-Street for some good tips on designing workstations for aging workers.)
by Christy Lotz, CPE
Yesterday my colleague, Kent Hatcher, and I hosted a one-hour live webinar entitled Designing the Workplace for an Aging Population. During the event, we polled the audience to get a feel for why this is such a hot topic. We asked the following three questions and their responses are summarized below.
Question 1: What percentage of your workforce is older than 65 years of age?
Question 2: At what age do you expect to retire?
Q3: Where have you seen the biggest challenge for older workers at your company?
The results from our audience confirm what we’re also seeing with our clients: more and more older workers are on the job and the number of working years is getting stretched out. We also see that attendees’ largest concern for aging workers is in material handling. Good design for the younger generation is good design for the “chronologically gifted”. Where we see the biggest issues are in those companies that do not consider ergonomics in design at all (for instance, lifting > 50 lb products). Although the younger workers may be able to do it, it doesn’t mean they should.
Recently, Humantech vice president, Josh Kerst, sat down with host, Lark McCarthy, of Inside E Street, a news program produced by AARP, to discuss what the show labels as the “Graying Workplace.” Kerst explained that, with the growing numbers of older workers in the workforce, it’s essential to consider that, “one size does not fit all,” in terms of job design.
Here are some of the key points discussed in the interview:
- Work Reach – Older workers often have a reduced range of motion. You should always be able to “shake hands with work” and bring it into the comfort zone.
- Lighting – Older workers need two to three times more light than their younger counterparts, so natural, low-glare, high quality lighting is essential.
- Sound– As we age, certain sounds can become more distracting. Remember the ABCs of sound – absorb, block, control.
- Sitting versus Standing – Sitting puts 50% more pressure on our backs than standing. Sit/stand workstations give employees the option to do both and help them become less static throughout the day.
Kerst also debunks the myth that older employees don’t want to learn new things. When employers engage them and consider their needs in job design, they have a wealth of experience to share and will be more healthy and able to do so. View the full video.
by Greg Cresswell, CPE
Today I spoke at the West Michigan chapter of the American Society of Safety Engineers (ASSE) on “Designing for the Aging Workforce”. This is becoming a popular topic among safety professionals as trends in the world’s demographics show that proportionally today’s workforce is increasingly made up of the “chronologically gifted”. As our workforce ages, it is the responsibility of operations managers and production engineers to design a safe and efficient work environment to match the capabilities of their employees.
To hear us speak on this topic again, join us at the Applied Ergonomics Conference in Nashville, TN on March 26-29. Or join us by signing up for our next webinar which will cover this topic in more depth.
by Christy Lotz, CPE
A couple of weeks ago, Blake McGowan posted some information on the blog about the aging workforce. This seems to be such a hot topic right now. I was doing a little research for a client who wanted to put together a training class on ergonomics and the aging workforce. I remembered reading an article about how BMW was reacting to their aging workers and found this youtube clip from CBS. It basically highlights the efforts that BMW took to address this issue.
CBS reports that in Germany (location of BMW), 1/5th of the country will be over the age of 65 within the next 10 years. In the USA, that population is going to account for 16% by 2020. BMW actually implemented some pretty minor improvements such as insoles, wood standing surfaces, sit-stand seats, and magnifiers with a relatively low cost (approximately $50,000). These seemingly small changes resulted in a big return, most notably improvements in productivity and quality.
For those of you who cannot access sites like Youtube at work, here is a link to the Harvard Business Review article that the CBS story was based on. How is your company going to cope with the aging workforce?
By Blake McGowan, CPE
Older workers need what all healthy and productive workers need – a humanized workplace. Discussions about human performance and how best to accommodate an aging workforce often focus on individuals over the age of 65. However, there are physiological changes that begin to occur around age 45 that can significantly impact our abilities. Physiological changes can occur in the following areas as we age – visual perception, sensory/motor perception and control, strength, movement control, information processing, memory, and cardiovascular capacity.
While providing a work environment designed to optimize the human performance capabilities of all workers is essential, here is a small list of facts to consider when designing the work environment for the older, more experienced worker:
- Visual perception – More illumination is required to see adequately (2x at age 40, 5-6x at age 60).
- Sensory/motor perception and control – Quality errors increase due to decreases in hand sensitivity and tactile sensation
- Strength – Standing arm strength decreases by up to 16% after age 60.
- Movement control – Movement control declines, making older adults slower in tasks that involve grasping, reaching, and continuous movement.
- Information processing – Older adults sacrifice speed for accuracy.
- Memory – Ability to recall “chunks” of information in immediate recall tasks is reduced in older adults.
- Cardiovascular capacity – At age 65, maximum aerobic power is 70% of what it was at age 25.
To learn more about ergonomics and the aging population, consider registering for Humantech’s upcoming webinar on April 15th.
by Christy Lotz, CPE
Dr. John Howard, Director of the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) was the keynote speaker today at the Applied Ergonomics Conference. He gave an energized talk about the future of the global workforce. Commenting on both the “chronologically gifted” and obese populations, he basically suggested that designing for ergonomics, aging, and obesity is inevitable and there is no avoiding it. Our jobs as health and safety professionals will continue to address this.
In a discussion I had with Jen Lenhart, Senior Health & Safety Specialist at Whirlpool, she already sees this happening. She is having to “fit the worker to the job” more often based on limited capacity or health issues with employees. She mentioned that it is a difficult topic to address and discuss because it is basically a slap in the face to the American economy. But it is a reality that we should not ignore.
by Josh Kerst, CPE
Ergonomics for the aging workforce remains one of the most requested topics for speakers and authors around the globe and now it has garnered additional attention from the International Organization for Standardization (ISO). Two new standards, ISO 24502:2010 and ISO 24502:2010, Ergonomics – Accessible Design, have been released to make sure experienced workers can now adequately see and hear the information needed to perform effectively at work. Read more from the ISO website.
October is designated as National Ergonomics Month by the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society (HFES). It is a time to generate awareness and give recognition to those who dedicate their livelihoods to improve the safety, performance, and comfort of humans through research, field studies, focus groups, trainings, and workshops. A number of notable conferences are taking place this month in North America and Europe to share the results of these efforts with the public.
- September 27 – October 1: HFES 54th Annual Meeting, San Francisco, CA
- October 4-7, 2010 – ACE 41st Annual Conference, Kelowna, BC
- October 13-15, 2010 – HFES Europe Chapter Annual Conference, Berlin, Germany
To find out more information about National Ergonomics Month, visit www.hfesnem.org.
Thanks to Greg Cresswell for contributing this link.