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Keeping It Simple...

Keeping It Simple...

With the change of year comes a whole host of predictable behaviors.

In my house, we clean out closets and shelves to make room for new clothes and toys. I comb through my files, pulling together our tax information (exciting, I know). We also enjoy seeing our friends and perhaps have a little too much fun with food and drink.

However, there is a New Year behavior that I really don’t understand: the New Year’s resolution. Even more puzzling are articles written about them. This is not one of those articles (well, somewhat, but not completely).

Keeping It Simple 2012 SafetyRevolution or Evolution?

My primary problem with resolutions is that we try to make lifestyle changes through revolution, rather than evolution. I know the two words sound the same, but there is a big difference: revolution is a forcible overthrow of a system in favor of a new system, whereas evolution is the gradual development of a new system.

Many New Year’s resolutions fail because we try to revolutionize our entire lifestyle, rather than introducing several small lifestyle changes over time, which eventually result in a big pay-off. Imagine going from coach potato on Dec. 31 to marathon runner on Jan. 1 – that’s a tough transformation! A more realistic goal would be to transition from coach potato to speed walker, eventually to jogger, and finally, to marathon runner.

We are trained to operate in the now and at full speed. We live in an era of high expectations and technology. Coupled with our need for immediacy, we expect nothing less. But if not trained properly, we crash. The marathoner who doesn’t hydrate will crash. The engine without an adequate supply of oil will crash. Corporate initiatives without a plan or the right players on board will crash.

All or Nothing?

My point is this: Don’t run the race unless you trained for it. The saying “no pain, no gain” does not always apply. Implementing an office ergonomics process need not be stressful and should not be difficult. It should be kept simple. It should evolve and mature over time. All too often, we see companies get caught between two false choices:

➤ Do everything. Assess every workstation, buy all new equipment and furniture, and complete a comprehensive training plan – today.
➤ Do nothing. React to issues as they arise and provide only “corporate-approved” products, which won’t necessarily result in success just because they are designated as such.

Now, you may feel stuck between a rock and a hard place. Doing everything is a great way to go but unfortunately, it tends to be unrealistic in these economic times and there is nothing worse than a poorly funded revolution! And doing nothing is simply irresponsible, especially if your people are expressing discomfort or suffering from injury.

Between the Extremes

To move your process forward and to make significant improvements, you cannot operate in a reactionary mode; you won’t be able to see the forest for the trees. Your support must be proactive. It is in this mode where better processes and practices can be identified or changed.

So, if you decided to take the road less traveled, you must choose option C: a combination of being reactive and proactive. Now we are onto something. To avoid crashing, option C must be planned properly, and if developed appropriately, it will yield great results.

First, understand the scope and scale of your problem:
➤ How many people are in the offices?
➤ What’s the injury rate?
➤ What’s the discomfort rate?
➤ Does your office equipment and furniture pass an initial “sniff test”?

Next, understand your resources:
➤ How many people will make up the ergonomics team?
➤ What is the budget?

By defining your problem and your resources, you are well positioned to make a solid plan:
➤ What is the best approach, given your resources?
➤ What internal resources are available? (May or may not require training.)
➤ What external expertise is needed?
➤ What are your technology-based tools?
➤ What is your implementation strategy? Are you starting with a corporate roll-out, moving ahead by division or department or as needed or by request?

2012 Safety GoalsOne Step at a Time

Even if you have a great plan, rolling out the ergonomics process to everyone immediately is a recipe for disaster. Remember, few revolutions are successful. Keep it simple. Start small. Consider rolling out your process to 50 people per month, especially if you are the sole resource. As your comfort level or resources expand, so will the process. People want to be on the fast track to success. If they see it work in a small set of people or a subgroup, they will get on board.

Ergonomics is simple. It can help all people, whether in an office setting or an industrial setting. The solution is to take the complexity out. Focus on the goal and keep moving forward!

Again, this is about evolution, not revolution. I commit to start walking before running. Will you?

James Mallon, CPE, is a vice president with Humantech, which delivers practical solutions that impact safety, quality and productivity. For additional information, visit or call 734-663-6707. Mallon can be contacted directly at [email protected].

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