See the article I wrote on neutral spine and creating comfortable in Feb. 2018 issue of Ceramics Monthly.

January 24, 2018
This combines my love for ceramics/sculpture and ergonomics.
Check it out at this link:
https://ceramicartsnetwork.org/ceramics-monthly/ceramic-art-and-artists/ceramic-artists/clay-culture-creating-comfortably/#

Originally published in February 2018 issue of Ceramics Monthly, pages 24-25. http://www.ceramicsmonthly.org . Copyright, The American Ceramic Society. Reprinted with permission.

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Why I Do What I Do, and What’s In It For You Too

January 24, 2017

My twisty- turny journey to doing the work I love involved numerous careers, multiple colleges, and both coasts.

I have been a professional ergonomist for 17 years and would love the opportunity to help you and your employees create healthy and productive habits within your work environment.

I can honestly say that not once as I child did I stand up in class and say “I want to be an ergonomist when I grow up.” In fact, drawing on my lifelong love of art, I started my career off as a medical illustrator drawing fish bones at the Museum of Natural History in NYC! It was a fun job, but despite the training and specialized nature of the work, it just didn’t pay enough.

In order to increase my salary and get steady work, I became a graphic designer. Graphic design required drawing and design work using computer based software. All this software required extensive use of the mouse (or other input device). After many years of being a graphic designer and using the mouse a lot, I developed a repetitive strain injury in my right hand. After a while, I realized I could no longer do this kind of work full time, since my hand was not getting any better. I needed to take care of my body and ensure I could support myself.

During that time, I had tried many treatments to help myself, from massage to chiropractic care, physical therapy, occupational therapy, acupuncture, medication, industrial physicians, wearing braces, using topical medications, self massage, stretching, you name it! I was experiencing so much pain in my right hand and arm that I eventually took to calling myself a massage slut, because I would ask anyone and everyone to massage my aching limb.

As they say if you cannot do, teach, so I became a graphic design instructor. I did that for a few years, until I figured out that to become a full-track, tenured faculty member I would need to have a Master’s degree in graphic design. Because this would involve me going back to doing nearly the same level of graphic design work (and using a mouse) that had caused my injury in the first place, this was not a good solution.

Hence I found myself fully immersed in an early mid-life crisis. What was I going to do for the rest of my life to earn money that would not further compromise my health? As part of my search for a solution, one summer I went to visit the career center at the local community college and met this very helpful woman who did not have much to do during the scholastic off-season. I ended up visiting her two to three times a week and she would help me evaluate various career possibilities.

Lost as I was, I did know that I wanted to spend the rest of my career helping people and doing preventative and/or therapeutic work. I considered everything from physical therapy and occupational therapy to phlebotomy (people trained to draw blood from a patient). I made lots of calls and did many informational interviews for all sorts of careers. Unfortunately, none of these turned out to be a good match, in that they would involve using my hands too much and therefore wouldn’t be a good match for my physical needs (I don’t like to use the word “limitations”).

This was before the internet-based age of Information we now live in, so perhaps it’s not surprising that it was an unassuming little piece of paper that set me on the path to what I do today. One day this wonderful councelor found this 2” x 3” flyer talking about something called The Human Factors and Ergonomic Society. Intrigued, I called them, asked a bunch of questions, and then waited patiently for the (snail) mail to arrive that contained the book of all the schools in it with Ergonomic programs around the US.

After still more phone calls and interviews, it turned out that yes, being an ergonomist was something I could physically do. Eventually, I started graduate school for Human Factors and Ergonomics at San Jose State University in San Jose, CA. I was now in the engineering building, which seemed to me a strange place for an artist to end up. One of my teachers called me a “canary in a coal mine” meaning that if I can get through the program anyone can. I wrote a 99 page thesis and I graduated in 2004 with my Master’s degree. I became a full time intern at a tech company in 2000, working and going to grad school simultaneously.

Having been a practicing ergonomist now for 17 years, I know I made a good decision. I love my job. I love helping people. I love sharing my knowledge and helping people to keep their bodies healthy and their lives productive. And I am immensely grateful (and aware of the irony in the fact) that I am now in a position to help people avoid the very type of injury that set me on a path to this career in the first place.

Because of the experiences that brought me to this work, I am in a unique position to provide empathetic and insightful assistance to your company and employees regarding the ergonomic environment at your business. I would love to help keep you and your employees healthy and productive. – Serafine Lilien, Owner, ErgoArts

 

 

Working With Your Chair, Not Against It

March 22, 2016

One of the most frequent complaints I hear from people I am doing an ergonomics assessment for is how horrible their chair is. It’s uncomfortable, they’ve tried using a pillow, using a blanket, doing odd things with tape, and yet no matter what they try, they’re still experiencing discomfort, sometimes major discomfort such as the inability to get out of the chair without back pain. Granted, sometimes the problem is the chair, but very often the chair in question is a fully adjustable, fully functioning ergonomic chair. The problem is that the person has no idea how to use it properly.

While in many contexts using a chair “properly” is as simple as sitting down in it, the chairs we use for work, because we spend so much time in them, require a little more effort. The chair must be adjusted correctly and the employee must be sitting in the proper position (called “sitting in neutral”).

Just the other day I did an evaluation at a client site. The person I was evaluating, “Wendy,” was sitting in a cushy looking “executive style” chair where the only adjustability was height. The arm rests were fixed to the back rest and seat pan. Adjustability is key to a good ergonomic chair, because if you can adjust the chair then a wider range of people can actually “fit” into the chair. Wendy had a small pillow she was placing into the curve of the lower back in order to provide support for her lumbar area. This is the most important place for a person to have support in a chair, but this chair had no adjustable lumbar support. When Wendy stood up the pillow moved, so every time she sat down she had to remember to put the cushion back into the correct spot on her lower back. How many times a day do you think she did not put the cushion back in place? I actually have photographic evidence of her not using the pillow as a lumbar support but sitting on the pillow instead. Sitting on the pillow is not helping support her back! People get in a hurry, they have multiple tasks at hand, they cannot always remember to put the little pillow back in place. I call this solution a “band-aid” because it is temporary, not something you want to use long term.

Then Wendy told me her “other” chair was over in the corner. It turned out that this other chair was a fully adjustable ergonomic chair in excellent condition. When I asked Wendy why she wasn’t using it, as it had fully adjustable lumbar support, she replied, “Oh that chair is so uncomfortable, that chair hurt my back. I had tape all over it trying to get it to work.” I suggested we give it a try, to see if I could get it to work for her.

I made the seat pan longer, changed the angle of the seat pan to have a slight negative tilt so that there was no pressure on the back of her legs, adjusted the lumbar support to fit into the curve her back and adjusted the back rest angle to allow for the alignment of ears, shoulder, elbow and hip. Wendy then sat in this chair and the look of relief was palpable on her face. Wendy was comfortable. The chair fit! No tape needed. No pillow needed. No new chair needed.

This is why ergonomic assessments are so important. Companies can spend good money on a fine ergonomic chair and their employees have no idea how to adjust it to their body. Purchasing a good chair for employees is not even half the solution. Teaching employees how to sit in neutral and how to correctly operate and adjust their chair is incredibly important, will minimize the injuries associated with incorrect posture, and ultimately save the company money.

Wendy had not been educated in either how to sit in neutral, nor in how to adjust her chair, and she is far from the exception. Of the over 10,000 evaluations I’ve done, perhaps 3% involved people actually knew how to adjust their chair, and even fewer understood how to position their body properly by sitting in neutral.

Hiring an ergonomist will help you and your employees adjust those expensive chairs they are complaining are uncomfortable. And if they’re sitting in old, worn out chairs, having an ergonomist come to evaluate the employees and their specific needs will allow you to purchase appropriate chairs.

To schedule an ergonomic assessment for yourself or your company please contact: Serafine@ergoarts.net.

History of CA Ergonomic Standard

June 16, 2009

http://www.dir.ca.gov/title8/5110.html

Gotta Try Sitting in this Chair!

June 9, 2009

Generation by Knoll

I haven’t tried this chair yet, it is not even out on the market. It is being presented at this years NeoCon, in Chicago and according to my source will be available to order in July, 2009 and shipping will start in September, 2009.

It looks really cool and I like the way it is so flexible. Cannot wait to try it out and see how it feels!

Here is a exert from the newsletter:

“We’ve reached a new understanding about the way people work and
how they sit throughout the day,” said Kent Parker, lead designer, Formway Design. “Generation by Knoll offers the freedom of movement that is essential in today’s collaborative workplace.”

This is “the first work chair that allows you to sit and work the way you want,” said Mr. Cogan. “It moves as you move and is designed to respond to the way people really sit, including seemingly unconventional postures. It’s all about being able to express yourself and your individuality.”

In sum, “Generation provides the ability to move through various pos-
tures and through various communications and working with other individuals,” said Ms. Utter, “and it does this with simplicity, of form and function.”

The chairs new level of elasticity was achieved through four principle features:
• Flex Back, which allows for a wide range of multi-dimensional movement
• Flex Top, which folds over the top edge of the back so you can rest your arms comfortably in more informal positions.
• Flex Seat, which supports forward facing, sideways or perched positions
• Dynamic Suspension control, which counterbalances body weight, resulting in a smooth and effortless ride

Lynn Utter (President and COO) and Andrew Cogan (CEO)

Lynn Utter (President and COO) and Andrew Cogan (CEO)

And it meets these LEED points:
• Recycled Content (2 points)
• Low-Emitting Materials (1 point) with its GREENGUARD® Children &
Schools certification
• Innovation in Design (1 point) with its SMaRT Platinum certification

With a list price of $1,195

San Francisco Bay Area Ergonomist
Serafine Janice Lilien, ergoarts
Call me directly at: 650-224-7294

My Favorite Lumbar Support

June 8, 2009

Angel Sales PosturePro Lumbar Support is by far my favorite lumbar support. I use this in my car. It stays in place (my old lumbar support fell out of my car, was lost, and then I found out they don’t make it anymore) therefore there is no adjustment needed every time one gets in and out of their car. It also works particularly well for persons who are on the shorter side of the pendulum who have chairs that have seat pans that are too long for them and do not allow them to sit back in the chair without having a gap in between their seat pan and their back support.

This back support really gets into the lower back (lumbar curve) to support a neutral spine position. It helps one avoid slumping while sitting and helps avoid creating a “C” shape of the spine, which causes the vertebrae to be in non-neutral positions.

And it is very inexpensive!

San Francisco Bay Area Ergonomist
Serafine Janice Lilien, ergoarts
Call me directly at: 650-224-7294

ergodex

May 19, 2009

Imagine being able to arrange the keys (from a keyboard) on a surface in any order any combination that works for you. This has value for persons who do alot of key commands, like CAD and graphics people, who need to use a few keys in combination and the rest of their tasks would be utilizing an input device (in this application probably a Wacom Tablet would work well)

The best way to use a product like this is to use the natural curve of your hand and place the keys under where your fingers would naturally fall to click on them – in an arc! No unnatural positions or awkward finger posture needed!

Check it out and tell me what you think!
http://ergodex.com/mainpage.htm

San Francisco Bay Area Ergonomist
Serafine Janice Lilien, ergoarts
Call me directly at: 650-224-7294

Apollo 5-95 Sit/Stand

April 20, 2009

A product by Dolphin Point Marketing
I have not seen this product being demoed but it looks like it incorporates allot of fabulous ideas! Fits a wide range of users, sitting or standing. Do not know how easy it is to adjust since I haven’t tried it, but it doesn’t look very complicated to operate.

San Francisco Bay Area Ergonomist
Serafine Janice Lilien, ergoarts
Call me directly at: 650-224-7294

CRI Ergo Focus Group

February 19, 2009

Yesterday CRI held a focus group in their San Francisco Office.

There were a few people from Herman Miller present. Herman Miller makes the now famous Aeron chair that is in so many movies as well as offices and is somewhat of a status symbol.  Well, they have come up with a new chair the Embody Chair.

I got a chance to sit in this new chair and it doesn’t fit me. I am 6′ tall and I couldn’t get the lumbar support to fit into my lower back. Rebecca Shirey, who is an account manager at Herman Miller said that she had a 6′ tall man who was not able to get the lumbar adjusted to fit his lower back either. I wonder what anthropometric measurements they were using in designing the chair.

Besides this, the chair has alot of very nice features, that appear easy to use. One of the big problems with office chairs that people have is that people do not tend to adjust them to fit themselves. I would say in about 95% of the ergonomic assessments that I perform I need to: 1. teach people how to adjust their chair, 2. teach people what a neutral seated position is and 3. help them to adjust their chair. Chairs are a bit complicated to work and alot of people do not take the time to adjust their chairs to fit their bodies.

A few cool features I liked was how the seat pan could be lengthened and shortened and how easy it was to adjust the lumbar support. The shape of the back support is similar to the Knoll Life chair, where is comes in, in the middle, kinda like a woman’s curves. This is a great feature because it allows the user to sit back in their chair and have freedom of movement from their elbows. A lot of chairs curve around the person causing the elbows to have to be in a slightly forward position and disallow the arms to hang naturally by the sides of the body. This is one of my objections in the Aeron chair. It also comes in a bunch of cool colors like orange and green.

San Francisco Bay Area Ergonomist
Serafine Janice Lilien, ergoarts
Call me directly at: 650-224-7294

Recommending Ergonomic Products

February 12, 2009

People keep asking me to come up with a list of “ergonomic” products that I like and that I recommend to my clients. Here are some of my concerns:

One needs to keep in mind that thinking you need to purchase a new chair to help your back issue may not be the correct direction. Maybe you are keying too high and really need to lower your keying surface, then you can sit back in your current chair and really do not need to purchase a new chair.

As Alan Hedge a professor at Cornell University said in a recent lecture I went to: There is relatively little systematic evidence of increase productivity in piecemeal ergonomics.

You have to look at the whole picture, ergonomics looks at the whole picture, not just a part of the picture. That is why it is preferable for you, dear reader, to get a professional ergonomic assessment, where in your entire workstation can be evaluated.

With that said, I have started to add links to some of the products that I do regularly recommend in the Blog Roll.

San Francisco Bay Area Ergonomist
Serafine Janice Lilien, ergoarts
Call me directly at: 650-224-7294