Ergonomics – Where & Why

Ergonomics is a word people hear all the time but don’t really stop and think about it. They think it doesn’t really apply to them or their veterinary hospital. But ergonomics is what hospital design and creating a positive working environment is all about, it is taking your practice and making all of the workspaces both user and patient friendly and comfortable. Knowing where ergonomics is important and why it is important is key, and then knowing how it can be incorporated into an existing facility can help you transform your hospital. When discussing ergonomics and how to include it into a practice many people tend to think “that sounds great if I was starting from scratch and building a new hospital but I already have an existing facility,” but there are some practical ways to incorporate ergonomics into our existing hospital.

Where Ergonomics is Key:  would be you or your employees lifting large dogs onto an exam table or into a bathing tub. There are a lot of products on the market today that can be incorporated into your practice so that people don’t have to lift heavy objects and animals. Search for wet lift tables or bathing tubs that are hydraulic. These products help to decrease the strain of lifting large dogs and also the chance of a dog reacting to being lifted by biting an employee (worker’s comp claims, yet another excellent reason to incorporate ergonomics into your work place).  Another way to make your workspaces more user friendly is by evaluating the height of your countertops vs. the height of your staff. Years ago a standard countertop height was 36” but research shows that people have gotten taller over the last 40 years and so now the new standard should maybe be 40”. For instance if you have a vet tech that is 5’10” it will be difficult for them to work off of the same exam table and countertops as a vet tech that is 5’4”. Many of the hospitals we have done custom cabinetry to utilize 1 work area by varying the counter top height sort of like a stair step, higher on each end, with a lower space in the center so everyone has a comfortable working height to do paperwork. If your staff is of varying heights but your budget doesn’t allow for a new counter top, consider buying a simple fold up or fold down exam table and installing it at the right height to accommodate those who currently use a counter top that’s too tall or too short.

It is often said that if you take care of your employees they will take care of you and creating a safer and more comfortable work environment is a great place to start. Whether you have an existing facility or are building a new one, it is often the little things that can make a big difference.