Creating a culture of safety is easier said than done. Solano County set a goal of doing just that, making safety easier, with a proactive approach to injury prevention. Enter Ergo Express!
A Place to Start
The County’s most common workplace injuries were musculoskeletal disorders and repetitive motion associated with incorrect office ergonomics. Even with 220 full ergonomic evaluations being performed each year at the County, there was still a high percentage of repetitive motion injuries reported, many of which could have been prevented. Typically when an evaluation was asked for, a person was already experiencing some kind of musculoskeletal pain.
The County believed the main challenge was reaching more staff. They started by distributing an ergonomic self-evaluation to staff, promoting the safety culture. The goal was to put ergonomic systems and practices into use before there’s an issue.
The next step was the creation of Ergo Express. A typical full ergonomic evaluation takes at least 30 minutes and has a high cost when using outside experts. Solano County’s Risk Management Team developed a quick 15-minute visit and evaluation in the hopes of reaching more people and fixing more issues before they start.
An Ergo Express evaluation checks for basic workstation issues and the specialist can make suggestions for simple adjustments, equipment, or recommend a full ergonomic evaluation. Many times, ergonomic injuries, and therefore workers’ compensation claims, could have been prevented by simple changes to a workstation setup, or even just some basic ergonomic training. “Most folks just need guidelines and advice,” according to Sherri Adams, Risk Manager for the County.
Spreading the Word
The Risk Management team began to advertise this new quick program at County events such as internal wellness fairs, job fairs, flu clinics, and safety clinics and most importantly—new employee orientations. According to Adams, one of the best ways that Ergo Express gained popularity was through basic word of mouth.
Once staff knew about it they (safely) jumped on board. Staff would see a coworker having the evaluation done and ask if they could have one as well. To make solutions more readily available, Ergo Express evaluators would bring a cart of commonly recommended equipment for employees to try such as wrist pads, ergonomic mice and keyboards, and document holders. There was such an interest in Ergo Express that the Risk Management team would arrange to come to specific departments/ groups and do multiple evaluations over a few hours.
15 Minutes of Fame, Then Follow-up
After an evaluation, follow-up checks are done 30-60 days later. The County also makes it a point to cross check information for any workers’ compensation claims that are filed.
Adams explained that having top-down support for Ergo Express, as well as an overall understanding of how repetitive motion injury claims cost the organization, aided in the program’s adoption by the County. Ask yourself “what’s the safety culture you’re trying to change,” she said.
Reach Out to Staff, Reduce Claims
Ergo Express aimed at becoming preventative and proactive, rather than reactive, and since the program started, over 400 evaluations have been performed. The impact is real: Solano County was able to reduce the number of ergonomic claims and the costs associated with others. Comparing year-over-year, the costs for ergonomic injuries decreased from roughly $470,000 in Q1 2017 to $67,000 in Q1 2018.
Yet the real benefit of Ergo Express, Adams explained, is the opportunity for face to face interactions and improvement in safety culture and morale.
Solano County’s Ergo Express Program received the 2018 EAGLE Award for Innovation and Excellence in Development and Implementation of Loss Prevention Programs.