Author: J. Kevin King

School is in Session: Ergonomics 101

School is back in session. The backpacks are filled, the chairs and desks are cleaned, and the teachers are refreshed. But, for all the preparations parents and teachers make for students, the environments created for learning may not be ready and conducive for learning.

According to ergonomics, the study of work in various environments and tools used to perform tasks within the environment, there is a lot that could change to improve health and learning of students. From backpacks to chairs, some simple, low-cost ergonomic changes could make great strides in the learning environment.

Backpacks:
Currently, there are 400,000 musculoskeletal injuries per year costing $15-20 million in the United States. To reduce some of the injuries happening to children, parents and teachers can help limit the weight a child carries in his/her backpack and improve the position of the backpack for carrying. The backpack should evenly distribute weight, not sag over the buttocks, and fit the child correctly. BackTpacks and rolling backpacks are great alternative options.

Weight guidelines for children’s backpacks are:

Child’s Weight Max Weight for Backpacks
60 lbs 5 lbs
60-75 lbs 10 lbs
75-100 lbs 15 lbs
100-125 lbs 18 lbs
125-150 lbs 20 lbs
150-200 lbs 25 lbs
  *Backpacks should not exceed 25 lbs in weight.

Classroom settings:
Changing the environment of the classroom can also improve learning. Rooms with more natural light have been shown to provide physical and mental comfort, reducing stress. Classes with fresh air also help student respiration, as kids are more likely to be vulnerable to pollutants and have increased breath rates.

Classroom tools:
Children can be in class up to 9 hours a day. That’s nine hours at a desk, in a chair. Poor tools and poor posture can lead to stress, muscle shortening, stress on the spine, poor blood flow, and inhibited learning. By providing chairs and desk that improve posture with correct height and leg positioning, these risks can be reduced. Tilt desks and fidget footrests are becoming more popular in offices and schools for this reason. Some classes are also opting to dump the chair or replace traditional chairs with balls, ergonomic chairs, or fidget stools as children need to get up and move to help process more complex tasks.

In addition to chairs and desks, schools need to look at computers, keyboards, and even mice usage as well. The positioning of each of these, when used a lot, can lead to strain and injury. Simple re-positioning or ergonomically designed products can reduce shoulder and neck strain.

Learn more about the ergonomics of school and the classroom and what changes you can make to help your students. Listen in as Kevin King discusses back to school ergonomics in-depth, covering everything from backpacks to pens and pencils, on People’s Law talk.

Want to hear more talks from Peter and Kevin King? Tune into WCIS 1010 AM Columbus, IN the first and third Friday of every month for People’s Law Talk.

Learn more about school ergonomics. Here are some great presentations that can help parents and teachers.

Complete Coverage: Protection From UV Rays

Child wearing sun protecting hat and sunscreenMay through September usually means warm or even hot weather here in Indiana. It also means sun, UV rays, and increased risk of skin damage, including melanoma.

The hazard comes for harmful UV rays. UV rays can damage skin cells. Beyond causing wrinkles, it can alter skin cell DNA resulting in cancer. The risk of exposure is not lessened because it is cloudy outside. UV rays can still reach the ground, even with cloud coverage. And the risk isn’t nu ll in the shade. UV exposure can be direct, like working shirtless or standing directly in the sun hatless, but it can also be indirect. UV rays can be reflected off many surfaces including paved roads, water, grass, sand, and more.

When UV rays alter skin cell DNA, it can result in Melanoma. There are more than 9,500 diagnoses of Melanoma daily with one person dying of Melanoma every hour. This cancer is extremely prevalent. Females under age 49 are more likely to develop Melanoma than any other cancer besides breast and thyroid cancers. Males under 49 are more likely to develop Melanoma than any other cancer.

The risk of developing skin cancer is high because UV damage is cumulative. Twenty-three percent of UV exposure occurs by the age of 18, so that still leaves a lot of UV exposure as you go into those working adult years. Risk does increase by 70 percent for those who experience five or more blistering sunburns between the ages of 15-20. Once you burn, the damage to the skin cell DNA has already been done. Those with skin type one (pale, white, freckled, always burns never tans) also have an increased risk of developing skin cancer. But anyone, age or skin type aside, can develop it.

UV Index

To help reduce your risk of being exposed to hazardous UV rays, there are steps you can take. First, check the UV Index daily. This index, developed in 1992 and adopted by the WHO in 1994, rates the risk of harm from unprotected sun exposure. The scale ranges from 1 to 11, with 11 being the most risk. Again, cloud coverage does not mean it will be low. A recent cloudy Thursday afternoon had a UV Index of 7. Check it daily to ensure you’re informed and can help minimize your risk.

Also, to help protect yourself you must protect your skin. This can be done in several ways. First, choose clothing that covers your skin. Long sleeves, long pants, and wide brim hats are great. Clothing that has built in SPF protection is even better. Second, if you’re spending the day outdoors, in the sun or shade, lather up with sunscreen. A sunscreen of at least SPF 30 is recommended. It’s important to regularly reapply every two hours and to apply everywhere, including your ears! Also, avoid tanning beds. Using a tanning bed is directly exposing your skin to UV rays. Last, be preemptive in your health and get regular skin screenings.

John Foster, host of 1010 AM Columbus stumbled into a skin cancer screening clinic one day after moving to Columbus, IN. That was how he caught multiple Melanoma spots. He has since had five spots removed, including two on his legs (the result of UV rays bouncing off a road he worked on during his time in the U.S. Air Force). He now attends regular screenings to catch and address any new Melanoma spots quickly.

Listen in as Kevin King talks more about melanoma, the hazards of UV rays, and how to protect yourself.

Want to hear more talks from Peter and Kevin King? Tune into WCIS 1010 AM Columbus, IN the first and third Friday of every month for People’s Law Talk.

Learn more about sun safety and skin health from these expert sources:

You can also easily check your local UV Index with the EPA or by searching “UV Index” with your zip code.

Fixing Distracted Driving with System Safety Designs

In 1983 only 13 percent of the public regularly used seat belts. Advertising and education campaigns were undertaken and 26 years later, that number increased to approximately 85 percent. That’s more than 25 years to make a usage change of 72 percent. In the meantime, people were injured and died.

If we continue the same path and rely upon changing human behavior through campaigns for distracted driving, we can expect the same results, a long wait for a significant change. In the meantime, more than nine people a day will continue to die due to distracted driving, a number that increased from eight just two years ago. Or, society can demand, politicians can legislate, and automakers can undertake using system safety design.

Technology has existed since the early 2000s that will block cell phone signals from the driver’s seat area of vehicles. If installed in vehicles, it could greatly reduce the risks from distracted technology usage in vehicles.

Some might argue that hands free technology is enough if drivers utilize it, but it’s not. It still leads to inattention blindness, drivers missing important items such as stop signs and pedestrians. The human brain cannot process all the information coming into it when attempting to multitask. It has four attention capabilities:

  1. Sustained attention: ability to concentrate on an activity for a prolonged period without being distracted (e.g., reading a book)
  2. Selective attention: ability to select from various factors or stimuli and focus on only one (e.g., talking to one person at a noisy party)
  3. Alternating attention: ability to shift between tasks and cognitive areas of the brain (e.g., reading a recipe and then following the instructions)
  4. Divided attention: attempting to process two or more demands at the same time require the use of the same cognitive areas of the brain (e.g., on the phone and driving)

Divided attention is what happens when humans attempt to multi task. It creates inattention blindness leading to injury and death for many. Yet, according to AAA:

  • 2 in 3 drivers talk on their cell phones while driving
  • 1 in 3 drivers admit to typing and sending a text while driving
  • 2 in 5 drivers admit to reading a text or email while driving

Sixty-seven percent of those surveyed by the National Safety Council felt at risk because of other drivers’ distractions due to technology. But, back to human behavior, only 25 percent of those same people said their own technology use put others at risk.

Just because we’ve done something one way before doesn’t mean we always have to do it that way. This time it’s time to change our reliance on changing human behavior. Instead, let’s rely on system safety design.

Listen in as Kevin King talks more about distracted driving and system safety design.

Want to hear more talks from Peter and Kevin King? Tune into WCIS 1010 AM Columbus, IN the first and third Friday of every month for People’s Law Talk.

Learn more about distracted technology from us and other great sources.

From the Law Dogs:

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Childcare Safety: The Unanswered Questions

Eleven million children in the US regularly attend some form of non-relative childcare. While much is studied about early childhood education and social development in these settings, there are very little answers about the safety of daycares.

There is no national standard reporting system for injuries and fatalities across childcare facilities. In addition, there are very few national standards. Most daycare regulation is controlled at a state level and, even there, the lack of information continues. With no uniform standards or reporting system its difficult to find safety information.

One of the few reports available aggregated many reports and found from 1985-2003 there were more than 1300 fatalities of children in childcare, with 130 in home-based care. Injury rates were higher. So how do we address the safety issues when we don’t know what they are? How do we develop better systems to protect our children?

Listen in as Kevin King discusses the issue of child daycare safety, various types of childcare and how they’re regulated, how to evaluate the safety of childcare play areas, as well as more progressive models of childcare we can look to for inspiration.

Want to hear more talks from Peter and Kevin King? Tune into WCIS 1010 AM Columbus, IN the first and third Friday of every month for People’s Law Talk.

*In Indiana parents can find and review reports of childcare facility state inspections from the Family and Social Services Administration (FSSA) online.

President’s Day: Celebrating Presidential Pups

Today is President’s Day, a holiday to celebrate our presidents’ contributions to our society. As we look back on past presidents, we thought it would fun, and insightful, to look back at presidential pups as well. 

Many presidents throughout our history have owned dogs, many of whom have made an impact on who was elected and how they served in the white house. For example, it was one of George Washington’s dogs that eventually helped lead to him being selected commander and chief of the continental army. And Herbert Hoover’s dog, King Tut, helped him break the ice on the campaign trail, helping him ultimately win his election. Both Franklin Roosevelt and Richard Nixon focused on their dogs during  presidential and vice presidential (respectively) speeches where they ultimately saw victory as well.

While fulfilling his presidential duty, James Garfield named his Newfoundland Veto to send a message to congress. President George H. W. Bush also utilized his dog to send a message, but less politically focused. His dog, Millie, had a book written about her life and Barbara Bush dictated it. More than $900,000 in royalties from the book were donated to support literacy. 

Learn more about the history of presidential pups and how they shaped our past presidents, their campaigns, and their work in the white house. Listen in as Kevin King discusses a number of presidential dogs from the Washington administration through the Obama administration. 

Want to hear more talks from Peter and Kevin King? Tune into WCIS 1010 AM Columbus, IN the first and third Friday of every month for People’s Law Talk.

Seventeen Minutes for Knowledge: Furniture Tip Over

By the time you’re done reading this post and listening to the audio, another child will sustain an injury from furniture, television, or appliance tip over. It happens every 17 minutes. This results in 25,500 injuries per year, with a death almost every two weeks.

This happens frequently because there are no mandatory furniture design standards manufacturers must meet. When a small child climbs a 30-inch-tall dresser with a drawer out, the center of gravity and stability can change. Some manufacturers do follow a voluntary standard that states dressers that are 30 inches or more must be able to maintain stability with 50 pounds hanging off an open drawer, but consumers have no easy way of knowing which furniture was held to this standard. This lack of standards isn’t for lack of trying. In 2016 The STURDY Act (The Stop Tip-Overs of Unstable, Risky Dressers on Youth Act) was introduce to Congress but was never passed.

As the work continues to mandate standards for designing safety into products like furniture, the onus of safety is put on the consumer. Parents are, unrealistically, expected to watch their children around furniture 100 percent of the time. Consumers are also expected to alter their furniture at home by anchoring it.

While it’s not acceptable to put the burden to reduce safety risks and hazards on consumers, anchoring furniture and buying furniture that could withstand the not yet passed STURDY standards are good steps to take while we wait for safety design standards to catch up. You can find great tips on furniture tip over prevention and proper anchoring techniques from the Consumer Product Safety Commission. Consumer Reports has also released a report on which furniture already available meets the STURDY standards.

Review those resources while you listen to Kevin King expand on furniture tip over, the staggering injury statistics behind the hazard, and where safety standards need to go.

Want to hear more talks from Peter and Kevin King? Tune into WCIS 1010 AM Columbus, IN the first and third Friday of every month for People’s Law Talk.