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January 22, 2007

Ergonomic evaluation goes right to the top

By Guy Lasnier

The chair is too small. The keyboard’s too narrow and the keyboard tray too high. Other than that, Acting Chancellor George Blumenthal’s computer workstation seemed OK.

Photo of Acting Chancellor Blumenthal and Kitty Woldow
Kitty Woldow, UCSC Safety Programs manager, evaluates Acting Chancellor George Blumenthal’s workspace.

Photo: Guy Lasnier

Well, the monitor might be a bit high, too.

That was the quick verdict Safety Programs Manager Kitty Woldow gave when she visited Blumenthal’s office recently to show him how to make his own ergonomic evaluation of his workspace. Blumenthal, who said he wants to lead by example, encouraged UCSC faculty and staff to take advantage of the Computer Workstation Ergonomic Self Evaluation at http://ehs.ucsc.edu/safety/ergonomics.php.

Additionally, Woldow leads frequent one-hour classes on Ergonomics for Computer Users. The next is scheduled for Feb. 6. Registration is available at http://bas.ucsc.edu/events/.

“Everyone can do it and everyone--even the chancellor--can learn something,” Blumenthal said. “I hadn’t really thought about it. I’d only thought about keeping my wrist straight.”

“Most people don’t until it starts to hurt,” said Woldow, who spends about 20 percent of her time on ergonomic issues. She said the information at the EHS web site gives people the skills to recognize what needs to be done and make changes. “Most people can do self-evaluations,” she said. “The idea is to give them the tools to make the adjustments.” Once they understand the proper positioning for themselves and their equipment, they can make changes anywhere--at home, office, or library.

“Repetitive stress injuries require both the stress and the repetition,” Woldow said. The injuries may start small but they are “very, very cumulative,” she said. The key is to address the problem before it is too late.

Injuries are not only painful, debilitating, and costly for the person suffering from them, they are costly to the university. Besides adjusting one’s workspace, taking breaks is a critical part of preventing injury, Woldow said. “Your health is absolutely more important than anything we ask you to do.”

At the end of the evaluation Blumenthal said he’d learned something--which he noted is more than he can say about some meetings in that office. “I want to do what I can to create a culture of safety,” he said.

 
                                            

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