Workplace Ergonomic Assessments

Workplace ergonomics assessments help employees and employers.ergo5

Working on a construction site has inherent injury risks. Most people know, see and understand what they are but what about the administrators whose jobs keep them behind a desk most of the day or workers who staff phones and input data into computers?

The risk for them may be different, but it is still there.

Today, Tidewater Physical Therapy is pleased to announce it now offers employers on the Peninsula and in Williamsburg and Gloucester onsite ergonomics assessments to promote wellness and reduce the onset of work-related pain.

ergo2Sean Henry, a certified ergonomic assessment specialist with Tidewater Physical Therapy, said the ergonomics assessment takes 30 minutes to an hour and offers a proactive component to reducing work-related injury that provides many benefits to the employee and employer.

Chief among the benefits is helping employees prevent pain, discomfort, repetitive use injuries, medical bills and more. It helps keep employees working and can reduce time out of work due to injury.

“Often the tools for reducing work-related pain and risks for injury can be found within the existing work station,” said Henry, who takes a behavior-based, educational approach with every client. “I assess what a ‘day in the life’ looks like and provide relevant education on common causes for workplace discomfort. Once the assessment is finished, I make recommendations to optimize their workstation and work habits to reduce the identified risks. It is a collaborative effort with the client.”

Tidewater’s behavior-based approach is different than traditional ergonomics, which focuses on fitting or designing the work station to the worker. Tidewater teaches each worker how to work safely and efficiently within his/her existing work station. “We emphasize increasing physical activity throughout the day with variable position work positions and postures, such as alternating sitting, standing and walking,” says Henry. “Our goal is minimize capital expenditures for our client organizations. We are not about buying new furniture or toys. We are about teaching people how to work safely and pain-free with their existing desk and chair.”

Ergonomics Assessment ‘invaluable’

Earlier this year Henry conducted an ergonomics assessment for W.M. Jordan Company. Julie Sever, the wellness coordinator for W.M. Jordan Company, said Tidewater Physical Therapy President and Founder Wayne MacMasters, PT, MSPT and Henry conducted a ‘lunch and learn’ on ergonomics for the construction company’s Newport News office.

“A lot of people don’t know what ergonomics is and they talked to them about the science,” she said, explaining that Henry took measurements, explained why the measurements were important and offered real life tips on how to improve.

The ergonomics assessment, quite simply, was invaluable, Sever said.

“When we sit in the wrong position all day and you’re just sitting there reaching for tasks, sitting with your head forward, sitting with your back forward,” there are real consequences to the body if not positioned right, Sever said she learned.

Worker Risk Factors

Risk factors that exist in office work environments include repetitive or sustained stressful reaching, or tasks that frequently bring the body out of proper neutral spine posture, Henry said. During an assessment Henry looks for all of those motions and activities that pose a risk.ergo4

“No two people are exactly alike and one solution does not work for everyone,” Henry said. “People come in all different shapes, sizes and fitness levels and have specific work flow and efficient preferences that should all be considered when making changes to a work station.”

Henry analyzes much movement and activity is incorporated into the workday.

“We encourage movement and activities that bring the employee out of the chair to promote work recovery and overall wellness,” Henry said.

All workers can benefit from ergonomics assessment, Henry said. Specifically, those workers with recurrent or persistent pain in the neck, shoulder, wrist, hand or lower back are good candidates for ergonomic evaluations.

“Frequently these conditions are ignored or result in lost work days and medical costs when they can often be prevented or reduced through work station improvements and risk reduction behavior training,” Henry said. “Research also indicates significant return on investment for wellness programs for employers in the form of reduced medical costs, reduced time out of work and increased employee productivity.”

Education can Reduce Risk Factors

For Tidewater Physical Therapy, Henry’s main focus is assessing employees and then educating them on the factors that cause or contribute to workplace discomfort. He then equips them with ergonomics training to help reduce their risk for injury and discomfort.

“The ability to recognize risks and reduce them as they arise is the key to effectively preventing or reducing work related pain,” Henry said. “A common misconception is that buying an expensive ergonomic chair will solve all of their problems. My goal is to equip the employee to take command of his or her workstation to prevent and reduce work related pain by making them aware of their stressful body postures, sustained positions, repetitive motions and other factors that put them at risk for injury. Sometimes, it is just a matter of moving the height of a chair, the position of the monitors or keyboard and no new equipment is needed at all.”

To contact Henry about conducting an ergonomics assessment at your place of work, reach him by phone at 757-838-6678 or by email at