At the 2016 PARMA Conference, Kathy Espinoza, board-certified ergonomist from Keenen, discussed how to build an effective safety culture focused on millennial employees.
Millennials tend to be good at group work, team work, creativity and multi-tasking ability. They are very civic-minded and they were born and raised with technology. But they also have very bad ergonomic habits, including poor posture and a lack of proper typing skills. As an ergonomist, you have to work to change these bad habits, which can be very challenging.
Habit-changing efforts include safety incentives, training sessions and behavior-based safety. Ergonomics are focused on making the job more “comfortable” for the worker. The problem is, millennials developed poor ergonomics at an early age playing video games, so they are used to sitting with poor posture and are therefore “comfortable”. The problem is, over time, these poor ergonomic habits will lead to long-term problems, including increased risk factors for work injuries.
Because millennials are entering the workforce with such poor ergonomic habits, it is imperative that you perform an ergo evaluation at the time of hire. They will need to be trained in proper techniques to undo the bad habits. Correct techniques will seem new and awkward to them. You also need to focus on their ergonomic habits at home, not just on the job, as those habits at home will also have an adverse impact on the employee’s potential to develop workplace problems. You also need to be prepared to make the same changes for everyone because this generation will notice when one person gets a new piece of equipment. Remember, this is the generation where everyone received a trophy for participating.
Risk factors for injuries have not changed. Excess force, too much repetition, poor posture, lack of rest, individual stress and genetics all play a very important role in determining whether someone is prone to musculoskeletal injuries. However, the exposures have changed. Research has shown that if you are on a device more than two hours a day, you are prone to increased musculoskeletal disorders. However, millennials are on their devices more than nine hours per day.
Important components of ergonomic evaluations:
- Frequency: How long are you sitting in a day at work and at home? If it is longer than 6 hours per day, that can lead to increased injury risk.
- Duration: How long do you sit without moving? This leads to an increased risk of many things, including heart disease and blood clots.
- Intensity: Pressure to complete the tasks in a certain time.
What to focus on:
- Focus on excessive static postures. Get them to move more.
- Wrists (separate keyboard and screens)
- Neck – become a touch typist. This is no longer taught in schools.
- Lower Back – Indequate lumbar support, poor postures. Quality chairs matter.
- Posture guidance – You have to break poor habits of slouching.
If you train them:
- Don’t be boring. Understand the fast-paced world they come from.
- Train them all. Everybody gets a trophy. Don’t make them file a claim to get an evaluation.
- Follow up to show concern and sincerity.
Ergonomic product use:
- Work with IT on what new products are being rolled out. Are they issuing tablets to certain departments? What is the size, weight, etc., of their cell phones? Train people to use talk-to-text to cut down on repetitive use injuries.
- If you have a BYOD policy, you need to be reviewing those devices also.
- Do you review your “recommended products” frequently?
- Do you provide products for them to use on the road, from hotels, coffee shops, etc?
The most successful corporations are including ergonomic evaluations as part of the new hire process and are giving their workers the necessary equipment to use both at work and at home. Have a supply of the latest and greatest ergo devices for them to try.