Ergo Practice News logo February 2019

Team-Based Participatory Ergonomics Promotion (TPEP) Program

ErgoPractice News – February 2019
By Jin Chang PhD

One-third of dentists who retire early have been forced to retire due to musculoskeletal injury.1 92.3% of surveyed surgeons experienced at least one occupation-related symptom. Cervical spine pain was the most commonly experienced and 20% of surgeons resorted to surgery for treatment.2 Many clinicians have told us that they regularly visited chiropractors, but reduced the number of visits or stopped visiting chiropractors after they changed their working postures using SurgiTel’s ergonomic loupes. Imagine if clinicians spoke freely with one another about their pain and sought solutions as a team.

Creating an open environment where peers can share their work-related hardships will benefit all clinicians. It might not seem like it now, but this ideal situation is attainable and critical to a successful practice. In this month’s ErgoPractice News, we will break down the steps to achieve an ergonomically safe and pain-free work environment with the implementation of a “Team-based Participatory Ergonomics Promotion” program (TPEP).

Impacts of Musculoskeletal Disorders

Musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) in the workplace are a result of poor working posture and/or improperly designed or applied tools and equipment. Work-related pain and injuries will not only affect the health of each individual team member but also affect the entire team in scheduling and productivity.

As we discussed in the last issue of ErgoPractice News, it is very important to promote healthy habits among team members by sharing experiences about ergonomic issues and information which may help team members prevent and/or alleviate work-related pain and injuries. The successful implementation of the TPEP program will require active participation from all team members.

Applying Participatory Ergonomics to Small Clinical Teams

Participatory ergonomics (PE) programs are a common way to reduce musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) in large organizations. These programs generally involve developing an ergonomics team that includes members from various departments and levels within the organization. These teams should also include workers and managers in the problem-solving and decision-making process. But most importantly, they need to include those who have first-hand experience with the ergonomic issues: the workers.

We may apply this approach to a small clinic environment by forming an ergonomics team with all team members. This approach will be called TPEP. Team members can learn basic principles for the implementation of TPEP programs. However, using ergonomic consultants may be a more effective way to learn the basic principles of clinical ergonomics and help to identify ergonomics issues for all team members.

For the successful implementation of TPEP program, the clinic owner should recognize the benefits of the program individually, review the benefits of the TPEP program with team members during regular team meetings, and gain support from all team members.

Once all team members support the TPEP program, the implementation of these programs may include the following:

  1. Establish a clear goal for the program and gain support for the program from your clinic team members.
  2. Develop a guideline for the process and review with clinic team members.
  3. Train team members about the basic principles of clinical ergonomics by a trained team member or ergonomics specialist.
  4. Create a culture to encourage active communication among team members throughout the entire intervention.
  5. Perform an ergonomics gap analysis. If necessary, invite a specialist to perform ergonomics gap analysis by reviewing the working postures of team members and evaluating tools and equipment.
  6. Make all decisions using group consultations for improving tools and equipment. The group, including all team members, must be involved in the assessment and solution.
  7. Financially assist team members to purchase their personal loupes and headlights to enable them to work at maximum safety. Clinic management may use financial assistance as an
    incentive program.

Make sure the TPEP program includes these elements to ensure a successful intervention. This way, you will have the best chance to achieve positive health and performance outcomes, as well as the ergonomic impact you desire.

Properly implemented TPEP programs are associated with positive healthy outcomes, including the reduction in MSDs-related symptoms, MSDs injuries, and lost days from work because of sickness due to MSDs.

How can SurgiTel Help Start the TPEP program?

Since the early 1990s, SurgiTel has developed ergonomic vision products such as loupes and headlights to help clinicians work safely. Additionally, SurgiTel publishes ErgoPractice News to help our customers understand issues related to loupes, LED headlights, and stools.

SurgiTel can offer the following:

  1. Provide your team with training materials on basic clinical ergonomics which can be customized for your team. If requested, we can give a presentation to your team.
  2. Provide your team with selection guides for loupes, headlights, and stools. If requested, we can give a presentation to your team.
  3. Analyze posture photos for your ergonomics gap analysis. If your team emails us their posture photos, (neutral posture and actual working posture) we can find the head tilt angle using a computer system and offer suggestions on how to improve the angle (contact:
  4. Offer customized payment plans for a group purchase.
  5. Recommend clinical consultants who can help you.

The Result of TPEP program

Working together with your team to achieve a pain-free working environment relies on communication between members, proper research, correct tools, and equipment implementation. Following the steps of TPEP will result in a decrease in working-pain and will create an open and healthy working environment for all those involved.

Please help your colleagues prevent years of needless pain and risk of career-ending injury by taking the next step and implementing TPEP. Pain and injury may appear to occur suddenly, but in actuality, the damage has been building for a long time. Similarly, changing your ergonomic posture with ergonomic loupes will not alleviate your pain overnight. It takes time to build better habits and heal musculoskeletal disorders.

SurgiTel offers a complete line of ergonomic products, including ergonomic loupes, eye-safe LED headlights, and ergonomic stools. If you see someone hurting themselves by bending their neck more than 25-degrees forward, it is most likely due to non-ergonomic loupes!

For more information on the importance of ergonomics, contact your local field representative at Find a Rep.


  1. Valachi, Bethany. Practice Dentistry Pain-Free: Evidence-Based Strategies to Prevent Pain and Extend Your Career. Portland, OR: Posturedontics Press, 2008.
  2. Chitnis, Deepak. “Operating with Pain: Surgeon Workplace Injury Underrecognized.” MDedge Surgery. Frontline Medical Communications, May 22, 2016.