Photographer: Ben Siegel
Mar 28, 2013
By Chealsia Smedley
On March 1, Marty Dagostino joined Environmental Health and Safety, a branch of Risk Management, as a professional ergonomist. This is the first time that the University has hired a professional
Dagostino is no stranger to Ohio University, and when the University decided to hire a full time ergonomist, he was the perfect fit.
He completed both his undergraduate and graduate degrees at Ohio University and immediately began his career in ergonomics. After 10 years of working for a company in Lancaster, Ohio, Dagostino became a private consultant for his own company, Ergonomic Solutions, based in Athens. He then worked with the University for about 15 years as a private consultant.
"In the world of ergonomics, he is a certified professional ergonomist, which is a pretty big deal," said Jeff Campbell, director of Environmental Health and Safety. "Marty's been a good fit, he's very familiar with the University and he's local. It's can be really hard to find an ergonomist that is local. So it really worked out for everyone."
Recently, University Communications and Marketing sat down with Dagostino to learn more about his new position.
Q: What made you interested in ergonomics?
A: There was a real kind of crossover in what I did with my graduate degree. It was kind of studying people and how they use their bodies with their work, and what the outcomes were, the forces that were required and the movements that were required. It just seemed like a natural fit.
Q: What does a day in the life of an ergonomist look like?
A: There's a switch now because I have my own office and they've carved out what they're calling a workshop for me. I may be called to do an assessment in an office environment where somebody's having problems with their shoulder, their elbow or their hand. So I go in and I try to determine what they may be doing or how the workstation is arranged that might be contributing to their work day problems. Then I write a report that goes to my director and their supervisor. We try to work together to implement adjustments or changes that mitigate the stress that's contributing to the problem. Yesterday I was in a kitchen working with a cook who had developed a shoulder injury, trying to evaluate what possibly could have contributed to that. Usually the worker has a really good idea. So then it's a matter of trying to determine if there is a better tool, a better way to do the job, a better way to organize the task so there's no further aggravation to her or anybody else.
Q: What are some common misconceptions about ergonomics?
A: I think most people think it has to do with their chair. That's certainly a piece of the puzzle, but it's certainly a lot more than that. In the office environment most people are linked to a chair all day. Increasingly we are having people who are rejecting a chair, and so they'll be standing at a table and doing their entry data all day just standing. So, that would be a big one. People say ‘oh you're an ergonomist, so you deal with chairs.'
Q: How would you explain ergonomics to someone who had never heard of it?
A: The simple answer is that ergonomics is the science of trying to make the work environment more comfortable for the worker. So obviously a chair would be something you would put in if somebody had a lousy chair. But in the kitchen it could be a tool, for somebody that's handling thousands of laboratory mice each day it could be the level at which they're raising the mice out of that container, the angle it's positioned at, it could be the lighting in an environment, it could even be the floor.
Q: How does the University benefit from having a professional ergonomist?
A: We've been able to show in the past that for every dollar that the University spends either on my services or the introduction of an ergonomic application, there's a considerable savings. In the past, this is back in 2005, it was basically saying that for every dollar we were spending on ergonomics, including my consulting fees, we were saving $7. It's a significant return on investment, and ultimately determination was made on some level that it's a good business practice to have somebody with my skill set contributing to the operation of the institution.
Q: What do you hope will change as a result of this new position?
A: I look at a university as being pretty much a business. I've done consulting work for a number of years and most of my work has been in the manufacturing sector. Those companies are often looking to reduce their injuries and the associated costs. I don't want to see anybody working that has pain or discomfort and it happens. Even in an office environment, there are people that sometimes develop injuries that can be debilitating.
So my goal is to try and intervene for people that are struggling with physical issues associated with their job as quickly as I can, to try and help them resolve the factors that are contributing to their physical discomfort and get them back to working in a manner that's productive and not physically stressful. Trying to help save the university money in regards to worker's compensation and worker's compensation costs, reduce injury incidents, things like that.
Q: What is the process for employees to get your help?
A: Normally it's a call to Environmental Health and Safety or Risk Management and Safety. And then from there I get a phone call or an email and I coordinate a time to meet with that person. We try to work with them until they feel and we feel that we have done everything we can. Most often it's that we start to get a sense of whatever was causing that person physical problems, that we've
eliminated that factor from their work environment and they've returned to working pain free.