4 Common Claims Pitfalls Stemming from Remote Workstations

At the 2022 RIMS conference in San Francisco, LAUSD and Sedgwick shared the top workstation risks they’ve seen – and ways to solve them.
By: | April 25, 2022

Every sector has faced different types of challenges throughout the pandemic. Certain sectors, though, have had to take on more than their share.

Consider the complexity for large school districts, like Los Angeles Unified School District, or LAUSD.

LAUSD employs about 70,000 people throughout Los Angeles, its roles as diverse as you’ll find at any major city, minus the fire department. LAUSD employees include nurses, police, architects and engineers, and even someone who raises goldfish.

Dawn Watkins, Director, Integrated Disability Management, LAUSD

That’s why the district, with support from its TPA, Sedgwick, has kept an eye trained on the ergonomic safety of its people throughout the pandemic, no matter where they were working. And they’ve learned valuable lessons along the way.

Dawn Watkins, director of integrated disability management for LAUSD, and Lisa Orr, certified professional ergonomist and Human Factors Professional at Sedgwick CMS, shared those insights at RIMS 2022 in San Francisco, during the presentation “A Laptop and a Couch: An Imperfect Pairing for Claims and Coverage Trends.”

Orr and Watkins addressed four specific common workstation mistakes employees make. But before diving in, Orr shared her secret sauce, if you will, for educating workers about proper ergonomics.

“No matter what your business or industry, or even if you raise goldfish, attention to ergonomic principles not only helps your employees at work, but really impacts them in their personal lives as well,” she said.

“That’s why I do what I do. I’d like people to be able to go home from work and play with their kids and wrestle on the floor and lift them up — that’s really important to what we’re talking about today. We send that message. When I’m talking to my own employees about workplace safety and ergonomics, I take the lesson and I say, ‘Don’t you want to enjoy your life as much as you can?’ And that is kind of the ‘hook’ for how I sell workplace safety and workplace ergonomics.”

Ergonomics Support Your Core Mission 

The essential goal of an ergonomic approach, Orr said, “is just optimizing the workplace to help someone be more comfortable and more productive and make sure that the workplace works with the way we work, with our bodies and our differences.”

For those worried about remote workers getting too comfortable, Watkins added, “When we talk about increased comfort at work I’m not talking Lazy Boy recliner. I’m talking about having a work environment where they can be as productive as possible for as long as possible.”

For most organizations, ergonomics is just one small piece of the broader picture. However, it’s an essential piece, and it enables your organization to continue fulfilling its mission.

“We have 27 protected leaves in California,” Watkins said.

“I don’t want to add workers’ comp to the mix. I don’t want to lose employees. I want to get everything out of them that I can. That’s the very reason ergonomics are so important.”

After meticulously planning out offices with top-notch equipment like sit-stand desks, employers were faced with the wild, wild west of employee arrangements at home. Creativity has been the mother of invention. Orr shared her own story of using an iron board as a makeshift sit-stand desk. But not all setups are ideal.

Fortunately most people have settled into more or less traditional office setups and are no longer working from beds or floors. But common mistakes are still occurring. Here are four Orr and Watkins highlighted:

#1 The Lean/Perch

This posture can happen when a person is sitting too far forward or too far back in their chair, and are leaning forward toward the desk. This can create strain on the neck or upper back, and also creates a static posture, which can impede blood flow.

Solutions: Lean back; adjust the chair back rest; bring other equipment closer.

#2 Too-High Workspaces

This is common when people are using kitchen table or side tables as desks, or other surfaces not well adjusted for their height. Pressure on the arms or wrists can impact blood flow, and lead to conditions such as carpal tunnel syndrome.

Solutions: Lower the desk if possible; use a adjustable laptop table.

#3 Bent, Twisted Neck

This is common for workers that have multiple screen setups. But in some cases, their screen are not set up in a way that aligns with their workflow, leading to twisted postures.

Solution: Adjust position and height of screens for better access without twisting or bending.

#4 The Foot Dangle

The person’s feet are not fully supported. Perhaps they’re using a chair that’s not adjustable, or not adjustable enough.

Solution: Use a footrest. A folded pillow will also do in a pinch. &

Michelle Kerr is Workers' Compensation Editor and National Conference Chair for Risk & Insurance. She can be reached at [email protected]

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