Ergo Expo, the largest ergonomics event in the US, was held at the famous Caesar’s Palace in Las Vegas at the beginning of December. A veritable Mecca for any ergonomist, the expo hosted rock-stars of the ergonomics industry, showcasing the latest trends and innovation from around the world, tempered with lively discussions and seminars, developments and research in this fascinating industry.
First impressions of Ergo Expo 2013
With around 500 ergonomists from around the world in attendance, Ergo Expo has always been industry specific. The big players like Steelcase and Microsoft were displaying their innovations, the Board of Certified Professional Ergonomists were in attendance, and representatives from Aon, Boeing, ExxonMobil, Honeywell, Southwest Airlines, Toyota, Twitter were there in force.
Integ was hosted at Ergo Expo by our new distributor, Prestige International and showcasing our Blade Dynamic Monitor Arm. Industry insiders were present in hordes, and the well-known and likable Allen Hedge, professor in the Department of Design and Environmental Analysis at Cornell University and chairman of the expo, was floating around.
It did seem to be an oxymoron for ergonomists to come together in Las Vegas, as everything ergonomic is about making the environment better for people, whereas Vegas thrives on extravagance, stuffing as much food, gambling, and alcohol into people as possible, hoping they’re going to be okay.
Innovation and trends at Ergo Expo 2013
More recently there has been a lot of development around sit-to-stand desks, which will be seen in New Zealand offices soon, as these have a massive impact on weight-loss, wellbeing and productivity. Traditionally, Europe has always been very proactive in office ergonomics technologies, as it is a legal requirement. Typically, there were a lot of new concepts and products around mice, keyboards, and office accessories, all designed to improve the work environment and get people moving.
Interestingly, the heyday of the treadmill workstation is over. As a trend, people found the idea a bit wacky, and often weren’t comfortable with the idea. Plus, the act of walking and typing takes a bit of coordination.
Lessons for Kiwis from Ergo Expo 2013
There is real ROI in ergonomics for an organisation, and as such the industry has always had to be able to justify itself. One company in Christchurch is measuring what people are doing at their monitor and what they are doing at the desk. Smaller companies have the advantage of being able to innovate and step outside the box, while the big players will take those ideas to the next level.
As a nation we’ve always been good at doing this and Ergo Expo 2013 reminded us of how specific the show is, and highlighted the huge dollar value in finding a solution to issues people have around ergonomics - especially in the US where businesses are often faced with huge legal costs if they don’t get it right.
The fact that there were 500 people based around ergonomics at the expo proved that it’s not always about price but also about solving a problem, nailing it and its underlying causes properly – there is a market for it. In New Zealand, the industry isn’t as big, so it’s difficult to find that gap in the market, but overseas has huge potential.
In the future, there will be a huge focus on ergonomics in the New Zealand workforce. It’s shown in some of the incidents that have occurred in forestry and mining, where people are incurring a real cost as a result of accidents.
Most people think work-place safety is a special helmet or gloves, but as we become more of an office-based workforce, it encompasses so much more than that.
Currently employers are legally required to provide a safe and healthy work environment, but rules will tighten dramatically if there is prolonged injury or death from companies not providing that in an office environment. That would accelerate that need, or ACC will address it on their terms.
Ergonomics isn’t typically what you would think of as ergonomics. It’s to do with your employees’ health and wellbeing and the net effect of that is product increase and productivity. A Japanese ergonomist summed up our line of work quite aptly. “In a person’s life, you know you are born and you know that you die. The role of ergonomics is to increase the time between these two events.”
Ian Cooper is the head of global sales and marketing at Integ, a division of Modtec Industries that produces workspace productivity tools, including modular LCD monitor arms, laptop stands, CPU holders and accessories