Proactive vs. Reactive Office Ergonomic Program


Either approach to address office ergonomics is fine, no matter what people say. Whether proactive (associates complete training and self-assessments annually) or reactive (respond to associate requests), there are pros and cons to each.

The main pro of a proactive program is intervening early, before an ache becomes a pain or a pain becomes an injury. The main con is “opening up a can of worms,” meaning to do something that creates a whole litany of other problems that were not there in the first place. The fact is, there is low risk of MSD injury in office environments. If this was not true, we would see high incident and lost-day rates, and that just isn’t the case. As long as good furniture and equipment is provided, the chance of developing MSDs is low. So be careful when rolling out a proactive program. In our experience, most online, self-assessment tools are overly sensitive and flag individuals as high risk when they truly are not. In one case, a client used online software to assess a department of about 100 individuals. Of the 100 assessed, over 50% were scored as high risk. Looking historically at their workers’ comp, there was not a single claim in the last 10 years. That just doesn’t jive.

The main pro of a reactive program is resources (money, time) are directed to those who need it. Because MSDs develop slowly over time, a reactive program is effective as long as you respond quickly. Regardless of the approach, focus on these things:

  • Associates complete a self-assessment to initiate the process to demonstrate a level of engagement
  • Self- assessment should be quick
  • Training is targeted – use data to determine root cause of the ergonomic issues and provide training on that
  • Provide face-to-face assessments for high priority cases; people in real pain need real people

Whether proactive or reactive, here at Atlas we have consultants in over 15,000 locations to assist if needed.