Ergonomics is often defined as the study of people adapting to their work environment, and Summit Rehabilitation Associates PLLC, of Spokane, is constantly studying the causes of workplace injuries to help people do that and to reduce workers compensation claims.
A company founded on delivering physical and occupational therapy services, Summit also strives to create safer, more productive work environments in the growing ergonomics portion of its business.
We are always talking ergonomics, says Bob Hoctor, one of the businesss four owners. We want people to work smarter, not harder.
About 65 percent of Summits business comes from the physical therapy- and occupational therapy-related claims of clients who are on workers compensation, the majority of whom are referred to Summit by physicians and state workers compensation claims managers. Part of that work is done in the field of ergonomics, says Jim Strandy, founder and part owner in the company which was launched in 1997.
Summit specialists routinely go to such employers as Kaiser Aluminum & Chemical Corp., the Spokane Transit Authority, the city of Spokane, Safeway Inc., and Zak Designs Inc. to determine ways to implement more efficient methods of work that have a lower health risk and are physically easier and less stressful. Improved work flow is also a consideration. Hoctor says that Summit charges $120 an hour for such on-site ergonomic visits.
For instance, a local Safeway store where clerks had for years moved items across the checkstands from right to left had to turn the checking aisles in another direction because of new security precautions at the store. Now working on a left-to-right basis, clerks suddenly began complaining of new physical ailments, says Hoctor. He went to the store, studied the situation, and developed a work routine that solved the physical problems without compromising the desired change in the checking aisles. One simple adjustment was to encourage clerks to wait until items came to them on a conveyor belt and not reach beyond the neutral risk position, says Hoctor.
Summit also contracts to create site-specific videos and give educational talks to employees and managers, sometimes even training individuals at a workplace to give such educational talks to their colleagues. The videos commonly include persons from the work site demonstrating how to do tasks safely, with tips on physical exercises that could be implemented before work starts to reduce the risk of injury.
Summit has three offices and employs 28 people: 14 at its new 6,700-square-foot main location at 407 E. Second in Spokane, nine at its 4,200-square-foot facility at 12509 E. Mission in Spokane Valley, and five at its 3,800-square-foot office in Post Falls.
On average, a total of about 130 clients come into the three offices daily for anywhere from one to four hours, or even longer, mostly for physical and occupational therapy. Summit is equipped to address problems of the whole body, including knee, hand, and lower back problems, says Strandy.
Yet, it is the services beyond traditional physical and occupational therapy, including ergonomics, that Strandy and Hoctor most want to talk about. Proportionally, ergonomics is the fastest-growing portion of the business, says Strandy.
In addition to standard physical therapy equipment, Summit has invested in machines and office workstations that can simulate the human actions required to perform a large number of jobs, ranging from mechanical to clerical. One $35,000 therapy station has multiple electromagnetically operated parts that can quickly simulate job positions and workloads at those positions for many different vocations.
Summit also offers a pre-employment work-screening exam for job applicants. The company works with an employer to assess the physical attributes necessary for a worker to perform a certain job function, then tests prospective employees for 15 to 40 minutes to determine if they are able to do the job.
It allows an employer to know what they are taking on before the person is actually hired. They can learn if the person is physically able to do the job from the start, says Hoctor. He suggests that such testing can eliminate or reduce the severity of some workers compensation claims.
Summit also provides whats called a physical-capacity evaluation. The people Summit conducts these evaluations on arent typically its own rehabilitation clients, but others who are recovering from industrial injuries and whose ability to return to work needs to be evaluated.
Strandy declines to disclose revenue figures for Summit, but says it continues to add employees and programs every year.
We dont perceive any major hurdles out there to future growth, he says.
The other two partners in Summit are Joel Long and Michael Kim.
Summit opened at Fifth Avenue and Pine Street in Spokane in 1997, and moved its main office to its newly constructed building on Second Avenue last September.
It opened its Spokane Valley office in 2000 and its Post Falls office in February 2004.
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