Ask the Experts: Pain or Fatigue?

Ergonomics December 11, 2020

Pain or Fatigue? Which question should ergonomists ask of their clients and why?

Pain or Fatigue

That’s the latest question from one of our CEAS students in today’s Ask the Experts blog. Read below the question we received from someone currently enrolled in our CEAS Online course:

“Hi! Quick question: I see on the “Questions to ask employee…” section, it specifies to not ask about/mention pain to the employee. Why is that? Is that because the employee may confuse why I’m there and ask me to fix the injury, when my responsibility is to determine cause and provide solution? Or is it a legal/worker’s comp issue? Or none of the above? Please advise. Thank you!”

The Back School Director, Ron Porter, jumped in and broke the question down to address each point individually:

Q: I see on the “Questions to ask employee…” section, it specifies to not ask about/mention pain to the employee. Why is that?  
A: Use words like discomfort or fatigue when you question them. We don’t want to plant the idea of PAIN in their mind if we can avoid it.

Q: Is that because the employee may confuse why I’m there and ask me to fix the injury, when my responsibility is to determine cause and provide solution?

A: Yes, you are there to provide ergonomics advice and assistance.  Which means you deal with  their work station/environment  and the ergo risk factors of posture, repetition, force, contact/impact stress and vibration and how it has an effect on them.  If they need/are asking for medical advice and assistance they should seek that from a medical professional. If you are a medical professional tell them NICELY, “My visit with you today is to look at ergonomics issues  and offer ideas of how to make you more comfortable, decrease your discomfort &  fatigue and allow you to be more efficient/productive with your time.”

Q: Or is it a legal/worker’s comp issue?
A: If you actually give medical advice it could possibly have some application to both legal and worker’s comp issues.  For complete clarification this would need to be discussed   with the company and an attorney.  

We have a number of fantastic Online Courses that discuss Basic Human Anatomy, Defining and Understanding Injuries and the Biopsychosocial Method that can give you a leg up on understanding the physiological and anatomical causes and perceptions of pain (or fatigue) and inform how to best approach the clients you’re dealing with.


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