Monthly Archives: September 2013

Interview with Craig Stewart – Kare Products

craig stewartAn interview with Craig Stewart, ASP (associate safety professional) of Kare Products, Boulder, CO.

When you think of ergonomics, what comes to mind for most of us might be an office chair with good support, an alternatively shaped keyboard and a mouse that takes months to get used to. But if you talk with Craig Stewart (of Kare Products), when it comes to ergonomics you’ll realize that it’s an art form which engulfs almost every aspect of your daily surroundings. And by the way, that ergo keyboard may be the last item on Craig’s list.

Craig, how long have been involved in ergonomics and how did you start?

I’ve been a part of the ergonomics industry for 20 years now. I started with designing orthopedic products for doctors and patients, aimed at maintaining a better posture and support overcoming injuries and post surgery. Those products facilitated a faster recovery by promoting healthier postures.

How do you define ergonomics?

I see ergonomics as the study of work. Specifically, designing the environment to fit the physical capabilities of the worker, taking into account his/her size and height, height of work area/desk and tasks. The art of fitting human beings into the environment also includes addressing the quality of the surroundings by looking at environmental factors such as air quality (removing pollutants), the amount of light, temperature, noise and even the psychological environment (for reducing stress). When designing for an organization, the first step is analyzing the population in terms of size, physical needs, tasks, and workflow. This root info when applied to the overall design will ultimately bring success to the organization and workers in terms of productivity, efficiency and health. It makes a statement about the company’s stance on the importance of their workers. This is our philosophy and practice.

How do you envision the future in terms of work conditions?

I would want to see everyone working in an environment that supports their health and well-being.ergonomic improvements Ergonomically the work environment should be completely flexible in terms of workers’ height and needs considering their daily tasks and adjustable in less than 10 minutes. Ideally, we envision everyone having an electric stand sit desk with an ergonomic chair that provides support and is not simply purchased based on looks. The environment should support all the factors that enhance the workers wellbeing and efficient completion of their tasks. People should leave work healthy and comfortable as opposed to exhausted and depressed and have enough energy for the rest of their day.

People who enjoy their work accomplish more, and naturally that’s a big plus for the employers. On a scale of 1-10, I would put investing in ergonomics and a good working environment at 11. It shows an increased return on investment (ROI), decreased injuries and increased overall positive attitude in the work environment.

Tell us about Kare Products office design

Every desk is an electric adjustable sit to stand desk as we have workers ranging from 5′ to 6′. Because of the height range and adjustability, everyone can use each other’s desk depending on the assignments. We use a stand up conference table for our morning meetings. We set it to a stand mode because we found it keeps everybody alert and sharp and the meetings go faster. Interestingly neurologists explain when a person is lying down, thinking is slower and they access what is termed as the reptilian brain (basic mode). When sitting, people use a different part of the brain, more task oriented. Standing accesses a part of the brain where people can tap into another level of more inspired thinking, creativity, and a wider variety of solutions.

Kare Products adopted a semi open office plan where everyone has their individual area. That design gives privacy and quiet when focused on a task, but permits easy communication for quick questions or more in depth discussion. We can hear what the other person is saying in case we have critical info they may need. This supports a teamwork work atmosphere. From time to time, we change up the art and layout design to encourage new thinking that happens with change in your environment.

Every desk has a wireless headset for stress free quick response, and document holders to avoid forward head tilt when looking at paperwork and the monitor height is adjustable. We stage our equipment so people have to walk to the printer and to access other needed tools. This encourages movement, breaking up static muscle load and a chance to mingle and interact. We provide filtered water and herbal teas as opposed to heavy sugar sodas and instant coffees. We run an air filter to help people with their allergies and keep the environment clean and fresh.

Lights wise – we use some full spectrum lights but the office has windows all around, which brings in a lot of natural light. We invested in windows in the warehouse which has increased workers’ satisfaction. Other warehouse tools include a sit stand desk and anti fatigue mats to support circulation and cut down on fatigue when standing. We have also decreased the warehouse noise by partially carpeting the area.

What would you improve in your own office?

Now that we have incredibly sophisticated body friendly furniture and ergonomic tools, the goal is office ergonomic improvementsto make sure we remember to use them properly-for example, change the height of the desk when we’re at a different workstation to get into a neutral posture. We need to change our muscle memory and posture habits to fully benefit from the equipment. It becomes each employee’s responsibility to become aware. Kindly reminding each other if we’re slumping or sitting awkwardly could go a long ways toward helping each other make changes. By learning shortcut keys for every computer program we use, the team would be more productive and minimize using the mouse. I think we could all benefit from blinking and looking away from the monitor screen every 30 minutes to focus on a distant object to bring relief and moisture to our eyes.

What can you say about Google’s office work environment?

Google invests in team sharing and communication in a very extraordinary way. They promote group activity and create fun places for team sharing, privacy and interaction that inspires creativity and team work. Having fun at work helps that a lot.

Google created a fun environment and I know they invest a lot in ergonomics. In my opinion they google office designtook it a bit too much towards form over function. The environment there brings out the playful and you stay alert and creative but it seems that people often sit in workstations that don’t fit their body size. More thought could have been put into the desks height (non adjustable), work flow and sit design. The great designers always say form follows function – that is the right way of doing things.

Author Byline

Craig Stewart is VP and co-owner of Kare Products since 1983. Craig brings analytical skills to Kare Products systems, manufacturing, workspace ergonomics and design. He has grown the company from bootstrap to a national market.

 

2013 National Safety Council Congress & Expo

NSC expo

NSC expo

It’s that time of year again. The National Safety Council Congress and Expo is set to kick off on September 28th at the McCormick Place in Chicago Illinois. The week long event will see several industry leaders in the fields of health and safety gathering to discuss some of the biggest innovations and changes in workplace safety. The NSC Congress and Expo has been taking place annually for over 100 years and this year’s event looks to be one of the best yet!

 

About NSC Congress and Expo

national-safety-council-logo

national-safety-council-logo

The event is hosted by the National Safety Council, which is a nonprofit whose goal is to “save lives by preventing injuries and deaths at work, in homes and communities and on the road through leadership, research, education and advocacy.” In order to spread their message, the NSC partners with businesses, the government, and even the public to hold events and perform research.

The goal of this industry meet-up is to set a stage for companies to learn about the different equipment and tools available to them in order to ensure their employees have a safe and healthy work environment. The Congress portion consists of seminars and discussions. The Expo portion allows attendees to browse and visit booths from hundreds of exhibitors showcasing the latest in safety solutions.

While there is a wealth of information available online about the best practices for workplace safety, nothing beats live presentations by leaders from nationally recognized companies such as Grainger and Honeywell. Combining informative speeches, live demonstrations, and even mixing in some Q&A, the 2013 NSC Congress and Expo is a can’t miss opportunity for all businesses.

There’s more to the NSC Congress and Expo than just information. It is also a great opportunity to network and mingle with other business leaders and likeminded professionals. During the “Rock ‘n’ Community: Connections for a Cause” and the “National Awards Celebration”, attendees are encouraged to get some face to face time with each other and network.

Who will you see?

Due to the excitement and popularity of the event, companies from several industries attend every year. You can expect to see companies from manufacturing, construction, petrochemical, transportation, utilities and more.

Some of the notable keynote speakers include:

  • Captain Mark Kelly: Commander of the Space Shuttle Endeavor’s Final Mission
  • Janet Froetscher: President & CEO of the NSC
  • Greg Hale: Vice President and Chief Safety Officer for the Walt Disney Company
  • Mr. Paul O’Neill: 72nd Secretary of the U.S. Treasury

There will also be plenty of exhibitors showcasing their newest products and tools for workplace safety:

  • 3M
  • Contour Design
  • Safety Awareness Solutions
  • OSHA
  • OccuNomix International

Dates and important information

The Congress and Expo kick start on two separate days.

  • Congress: September 28th-October 4th
  • Expo: September 30th-October 2nd

Those interested in attending can register online, by mail, or via fax. Currently, tickets for both the Congress and the Expo for NSC members and government workers are $800 and $1,000 for non-members. Students can attend the event for free.

Why should you attend?

Companies interested in improving the health and safety of their employees are highly encouraged to attend. There is no better place to get out and learn more about what you can do to put better practices in place at your company than the NSC Congress and Expo.

Join thousands of other business leaders at the 2013 NSC Congress and Expo.

Author Byline

Karen Burke is the President and Founder of Kare Products. Karen has over 30 years of expertise creating ergonomic furniture that helps avoid injury and promotes health for all types of discomfort and body sizes.