While going through the recent website redesign for our MoveSafeⓇ Program, I encountered an interesting problem: there is little to no stock photography depicting proper posture and movement at work. What this signals us is the vast amount of unawareness and misunderstanding about how our bodies are designed to move.
We Just Don’t See The Problem...Yet
Browsing through hundreds of professional photos of everyday folks at work, we were looking for our ‘Big 3’ healthy posture and movements; a wide base of support, hinging at the hips and anchoring the shoulder blades. Surprisingly, this became an almost impossible task. Just about every photo had at least one person with improper posture. Whenever I found a work task where somebody was reaching or bending forward – they were often bending through their back with a narrow stance instead of hinging through the hips. Even when searching for lifestyle-related shots, the same postures were evident.
It dawned on me that this problem is the exact reason for our company to be in business. Many people just don’t know how to recognize proper posture and how to implement it in the workplace. If we repeat poor movement habits hundreds of times a day there is only so much that ergonomic workstations, tools, and equipment can really do to prevent the discomfort and pain syndromes many of us experience.
This Was the Best I Could Find!
As an example, I found these three images of a manager training an employee on how to safely lift a box. You can see in the first image, an example of the manager stopping the employee from an unsafe lift. In the other two images you see a manager giving a thumbs-up for what we would consider a risky posture and then a second image where the manager is in close, coaching an employee on a lifting technique that actually has some high-risk components (a C-curve spine, left knee forward with their heel up, and a strangely positioned left hand). Even when trying to professionally demonstrate good and bad lifting techniques, the examples missed the mark.
We Can do Better
The first step to creating a safer workplace is to be able to recognize proper posture and practice it every day. In the case of the above example, the proper way to lift a heavy object is by taking a wide stance with your feet firmly on the ground, hinging at the hips with a neutral spine, and anchoring your shoulder blades down and back.
What Do You See?
As you look around your workplace what postures and positions, what do you see? If you believe you have done much of what is possible to ensure your workplace is ergonomically safe, maybe it is time to address the missing piece around creating expectations in your workplace for healthy posture and movement. Real change has to come from an internalized understanding of the importance of moving your body properly.
The MoveSafeⓇ Program helps organizations implement healthy posture and movement habits to reduce human and financial costs of musculoskeletal injuries. We work with organizations across a variety of industries including Energy and Utilities, Oil and Gas, Forestry, Manufacturing, Mining, Municipalities and Office Environments across Canada and the United States.