expert interviews Feb 24, 2022

“A lot of companies don’t have a good ergonomics program in place,” says Kristi Moore, Occupational Therapist and Certified Industrial Ergonomist. It’s sad but true. Unfortunately, most ergonomic programs are set up too late—after workplace injuries have already occurred. And a sad reality for many Ergonomics Consultants is that after resolving the immediate risks, employers don’t retain or develop the programs. Using a reactive approach to put in place ergonomic changes in response to an injury is beneficial to an organization. But it’s the implementation and support of proactive ergonomics that will provide the most positive impact. 

We all know that proactive ergonomics initiatives provide value, yet many Ergonomics Professionals find it challenging to convince employers of that value. In this episode, Kristi Moore will share some tips on how to shift the culture of an organization from reactive to proactive. Kristi also talks about practical approaches, including the cost of injuries and Artificial Intelligence in Ergonomics Assessments.

The following is an excerpt from our interview.

Could you tell us a little bit about yourself?

Kristi: My name is Kristi. I'm an Occupational Therapist and a Certified Ergonomist. I’m originally from Michigan. I got my bachelor's and master's in Eastern Michigan University. Right after I passed my national board, I started working in a level 1 trauma hospital as an Occupational Therapist. 

How did you get into ergonomics?

Kristi:  I wanted to get out of healthcare. I didn't feel like I was helping people anymore, which kind of sounds funny because I work in healthcare to help people. I felt like I was more of a band-aid for a problem. I wanted to get in front of the problem. I wanted to be more proactive and preventative to help people not to end up with a lot of different diseases or end up in a nursing home. So I was exploring different options, and ergonomics felt like an easy pathway for me to go, and I absolutely love it.  

As an Occupational Therapist, when I go on-site, I look at how I can modify things to make it better. When I’m working with people that have disabilities or get injured, I think of ways I can tweak their environment or get them equipment that's going to make them independent. It’s the same way I approach ergonomics. I think of ways on how I can make their environment better. I also look at the human body. Are they moving properly? Are they using good body mechanics? Because it's not just about equipment and environment, you also got to look at the human body. So I love ergonomics. It's a combination of two things that I really enjoy doing. 

One of the things that stood out to me about what you said is the “band-aid solution”. When it comes to the types of solutions that you’d put into place, how does ergonomics compare to some other past experiences that you've had in your profession?

Kristi: What I like about going into companies and bringing ergonomics and approaching it from a more proactive view is that it's going to help their employees get healthier and even make them more aware of the long-term effects of the things that they're doing.

What I like about ergonomics is that you're trying to prevent things from even happening. 

It's not just about the work environment, it's also about their long-term goals. When they retire, they can play with their grandchildren, they can travel, they can do whatever they want. I feel like companies are a great way to introduce people to be more proactive. And it starts with companies because companies have stakeholders. A proactive approach can give longevity in their life. They're going to be able to continue living and working as long as they want and still be injury-free. 

How do you demonstrate the value of ergonomics to encourage organizations to invest in a more in-depth ergonomics process?

Kristi: I do a lot of education. I also use a lot of research to help support what I say. For example, I talk to companies about doing dynamic warm-up movements before physical activity versus static stretching. Static stretching is shown to actually make you weaker before you start doing physical activity, and there's research around that. I use my medical background as well to get them to understand where the benefits are coming. And then I also use the OSHA calculator and show them that the direct and indirect costs for one carpal tunnel injury is $2 million. And they're like, “Wow, I didn't know that.” 

I also want to talk about the client's journey. Do you have a system that you use when building relationships with those organizations who aren’t yet ready for an ergonomic risk assessment?

Kristi: A lot of times, it's just getting the foot in the door for one specific thing that they're looking for. I have one example for you. So I worked with a public transportation company. We were asked to do something with their paratransit because they had a lot of customer falls. So I went in and I looked at their training and all their stuff, and I saw all these little holes. And they’re like, “You know, we never thought to bring someone with a healthcare background to help us. But now, we see your knowledge makes it easier.” 

So if a client reaches out to you for one thing, just jump on that. That's a way for you to build a rapport with them. And then you can eventually ask them something like, “Have you thought about this?” or “Have you looked at this?” They’ll start to see that there's a lot more to ergonomics, especially if you made an impact on what they’re asking for. This is what I've seen in pretty much every client we've worked with. 

Again, get at least one project in and just start working with them. And then you can keep building on that and get more ingrained into their culture.

In your opinion, how has the industry shifted during your career so far?

Kristi: I see a huge shift in wearable technology, like virtual reality and AI. I think that’s where ergonomics is going.

When we get demonstrations, I still see holes that they're missing, especially when they're attached to the human body. But I think they’re great because you're able to collect more data. The thing that I like about it is that when you do a training on body mechanics and the employees wear the equipment, you can determine whether your training is effective, see the areas where everybody struggles with certain movements, and figure out what part of the training you need to improve. It's a great tool to use along with what you're seeing because you can collect more data. 

What would you recommend to new grads or to other professionals looking to get into the ergonomics profession?

Kristi: I would say really research it. There's a lot of different professions that can go into ergonomics. I'm an Occupational Therapist. There are industrial engineers, human factors, psychology, and PTs. There are all kinds of people that have unique backgrounds that very much can do ergonomics, which makes it really cool because if you work with them, you can learn a lot from them. You can learn their area of expertise and how they apply to ergonomics.

And that’s it! I hope you enjoyed the interview as much as I did. Did you learn any valuable insights you could put into action now? In case you have additional questions for Kristi, do leave them in the comment section below or connect with her on LinkedIn

Another thing: This March 17th, I'm doing a 3-part live ergonomic training series. You’ll learn amazing tips and strategies that will add value to how you do ergonomics assessments and market your business. To get AMAZING ergo tips and strategies, just sign up here.


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