Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

Pioneer of Workplace Ergonomics

Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

Pioneer of Workplace Ergonomics

Article excerpt

The genesis

Back in Connecticut in 1992, Hagman was fiddling with a workbench project in his garage when he noticed his back was acting up from the way he was bent over his work.

When tall people bend to work, their extra height translates into extra pressure on the back muscles and vertebrae.

"I said, 'There must be a better way.' "

His direct inspiration was the way humans move their arms and legs.

He points to his own elbow which, mechanically speaking, starts with a ball in a socket.

"It provides a very sleek and simplistic way of moving things in a multitude of directions," Hagman said.

He received a U.S. patent in 1999 on his device: "ergonomic workholder with positional control."

"You can put anything on it. There's the ball in the socket. There is spring pressure that pushes against the ball, hundreds of pounds of pressure. You can't move it. When you press the foot pedal, you allow air to come in and counteract the fixed spring pressure. Based on that, the ball can be more or less flexible. You can make it totally locked or make it free like a joystick. That is the beauty of it."

The need

More than 1.75 million U.S. workers per year are affected by work- related back injuries, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. These back injuries account for more than 50 percent of the nation's yearly tab for workers' compensation claims, which run about $60 billion per year, according to the National Council on Compensation Insurance.

The term ergonomics, which means the study of people's efficiency in their working environment, is becoming a household word, and the aging of the workforce is part of the reason why.

"As we age, we are more likely to get work-related injuries," said Julie Landis, president of Ergo Concepts LLC., which helps employers figure out what their workers' ergonomic risks are and to find ways to reduce those risks. "Anytime you can turn something into a mechanical lift versus a manual is good."

That is the basis for much of Ergotech's lineup of products.

The company makes columns that go up and down and can support a work piece weighing up to 1,200 pounds. Ergotech also makes a roller system that makes it easy to slide a product from one assembly position to the next. …

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