Amy is the Marketing Manager at EWI Works and recently interviewed Professional Ergonomist Catherine Smallman. Catherine has been specializing in the field of ergonomics for 6 years and has worked at EWI Works for over 3 years. Amy has the inside scoop on the ergonomics industry from Catherine. Read more about their conversation below:
Amy: You are originally from eastern Canada, Ottawa, to be specific. What do you like the most about living in Alberta?
Catherine: Firstly, I love being this close to the mountains! But more specifically, Edmonton has been a such a good city to live in. The city has a fantastic community, there are always new events and activities to participate in. As a very active person, it is great to have the river valley and such a large green space right in the middle of the city.
Amy: You have a Master’s of Science in Kinesiology and are a Canadian Certified Professional ergonomist (CCPE). Out of all the career opportunities in Kinesiology – What made you decide to become a certified Ergonomist?
Catherine: Originally, I was introduced to ergonomics at the University of New Brunswick while taking my undergraduate degree in Kinesiology. After completing my degree and working as a Kinesiologist in a physiotherapy clinic I saw first-hand how many injuries are work-related and the impact they have on people’s lives. It was then that I realized that I wanted to be a part of injury prevention. Through ergonomics we can prevent injuries and increase peoples’ quality of lives both in and outside of work. Subsequently, I decided to specialize in Occupational Biomechanics and Ergonomics during my Master’s Degree at Queens University.
Amy: What has surprised you the most about being an Ergonomist?
Catherine: It surprises me how many people overlook the importance of Ergonomics. Unfortunately, most people do not seem to appreciate the impact their working postures or workstation set up can have until they begin to experience discomfort or pain. By proactively setting up the workstation and making movement a priority, people can dramatically reduce their risks of discomfort associated with work.
Amy: Ergonomics is matching the job to the worker and product to the user. What changes have you seen in the industry since you started?
Catherine: There has been a huge increase in requests for sit-stand workstations in recent years. Media has portrayed sitting as a disease and that the solution to this is to stand at work by using a sit-stand workstation. While sit-stand workstations can be very beneficial to certain individuals, most people do not require one. In fact, if used improperly, sit-stand workstations can introduce new risks for injury. We try to educate people on the importance of taking regular postural breaks throughout the day. Taking the time to get up at least once an hour to take a short walk around your office floor can go a long way in improving comfort throughout the day.
Amy: If an office worker walked up asking for your advice and you only had a few minutes to “give them your best tip”, what would it be?
Catherine: Download our app! I recommend it to my friends looking for ergonomics tips. It’s a great interactive tool that walks you through your workstation set up step-by-step, and it’s free! My second piece of advice is to make sure to get up and move throughout the day!
Amy: You have lots of experience doing office ergonomics assessments, training, job demands analysis, and return to work plans. What is your favorite part of the job? Why?
I enjoy all of them. It is nice to have such a variety of jobs that we get to do on a day-to-day basis. I particularly enjoy conducting our 2-day “Principles of Ergonomics” (train-the trainer) course. I get to know the individuals throughout the course, and it’s great to see the transformation of the students. They start the course knowing very little about musculoskeletal injuries and office ergonomics. When they come back to class on the start of day 2 they always bring great stories of all the poor workstation sets ups they can now see when walking around their offices and how excited they are to be able to change their own workstation set ups.
Amy: What new projects are you working on?
Catherine: I played a major role in the development and testing of our newest service, Remote Ergonomic Assessments. We have developed a process where we can use to technology (pictures and video conferencing) to eliminate distance barriers when delivering ergonomic services. We have successfully conducted ergonomic assessments for individuals from Prince Edward Island to Grand Prairie without needing to charge any travel expenses, which is a huge relief for our clients in remote communities.
For more information on Catherine and our other Team members, click here.