Most safety training takes place in a classroom, but ergonomics can greatly benefit from getting people up and moving around. Hands-on activities, or active involvement, increase your ability to learn and retain information.

Workstation setup
One of the best ways to educate others about good office ergonomics is to use real equipment in a real setting — but this can be very difficult. If you move to an individual workstation, it will likely be too cramped for the entire class to participate at once. Setting up a workstation in a classroom is also a challenge because real equipment can be heavy. To easily set up a mock workstation for the class, you can purchase a “fake” monitor, keyboard and even a hard drive. Workstations set up in a furniture store or model home are often sold to television and movie studios…or to you. They look real and are a lot easier to move around and set up than the real thing. (You should be able to get a full fake workstation for under $50.)

To take a more frugal route, use boxes. Look around your facility, and you are likely to find boxes the general size of a hard drive and monitor. If you can find several in each size, the better. Keyboards are light enough to be easily transported to the classroom, so don’t worry about finding a substitute for those.

Actual chairs should be used, and it’s often easy to bring one to a classroom. Many bad workstation setups are caused by the user’s lack of knowledge about how to use the controls on the chair. The basic steps involved with chair adjustment should be part of any office ergonomics training class.

Lift safely
If you are providing a class on safe lifting techniques, ask the students to actually practice good lifting posture and, if possible, they should practice this in a variety of situations. For example, demonstrate how to do a standard lift properly by using an empty cardboard box but also practice how to lift that box if it had handles, if it was stored above head level, if it was located on the back side of a pallet that backs up against a wall, and any other real-life situation that may occur. You can also place small items such as a small empty box in the bottom of a clean drum or trash can and demonstrate safe ways to lift an item in that position. Alternatively, make these situations into a learning activity. Set up a difficult lift such as these and have teams work to come up with three possible ways to creatively lift or move the object out of the container as safely as possible.

Some safe lifting training involves the use of real bricks in a demonstration — this is not recommended. The idea is that one volunteer holds a brick out in front of his body with arms straight, and another holds several bricks but with them held close. The instructor times the individuals to see who can last longer with the point being that individuals are stronger and feel less pain when they keep an item close to their body. Why is this wrong? First, you can cause an injury. Even if you have two strong people participating, you never want a safety training activity to lead to a workplace injury. Second, this activity could embarrass one or more people. You never want to create discomfort in a learning environment.

If you have had a professional ergonomist come into your facility, he may have used a video camera to show how workers are currently lifting or performing other physical tasks. The videos can be shown to demonstrate how lifting and other tasks should be done. Software programs are available that can help analyze the videos.

Unless you are multimedia savvy, you may not want to try video yourself. An easier and less expensive way to show how someone is lifting (either correctly or incorrectly) requires a digital camera, printer and small colored sticker dots. Have someone bend as if he is about to lift an object and take a picture from the side. Print out the photo as large as you can. After it is printed, place a dot on each of the body angles such as at the knees, ankles and elbows, as well as at the top and base of the spine. After all dots have been placed, it will be much easier for many people to visualize their lifting posture. Use a marker to connect the dots for better visualization. If they are not lifting as they should be, you can correct their techniques and repeat the exercise. The improvements should be evident on the photographs.

The key is to keep your class involved with the class content. Hands-on activities are a great way to increase learner retention in any ergonomics-related training class.