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"Ergo" Expo Boosts Employer Ego on Keeping Workers Healthy

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RALEIGH — You do not have to do physical labor to have job-related physical problems. Those aches and pains are some of the most frequent reasons people call in sick or file for workers' compensation.

But the state is making a big ergonomic push to ease your pain.

"Ergo Expo" shows off new office and workplace equipment that fits workers on the job. Human resource and safety directors were briefed on new ways to protect employees. A key is designing work spaces to fit workers.

"If they don't hurt, they'll be at work. If they're happy with their job, they're going to turn out quality-type products," said Jim McCauley of Perdue Farms.

Ergonomic standards proposed by theDepartment of Laborshould protect workers from injuries.

"Sprains, strains, bursitis, tendonitis, carpal tunnel syndrome can be caused by the work that people do in their jobs," said Angie Waldorf of the Department of Labor.

Special scissors, computer controls and furniture already are available.

If employees go to a doctor with ergonomic stress symptoms, the employers may have to make changes.

"If the doctor gives written work restrictions, then the employer is going to have to abide by those restrictions," explained Waldorf.

Employers could save money on workers' compensation premiums and fewer lost work days. Public hearings will be held next spring on the new standards.

North Carolina and California are the only states to set standards for ergonomic stress problems.