Master toolmaker Cathy Sitek was ready to retire from her job as a machinist in 2015 due to the pain in her body that resulted from standing all day at a machine for years. Then she got an idea that has the potential to help millions of workers.
“I was getting sick from MSDs (musculoskeletal disorders) caused by standing incorrectly, when you lock your hips and your knees,” Sitek explains. “I tried standing with my shins against a shower stool, and that’s when I had my ‘aha’ moment.”
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, MSDs are injuries or disorders of the muscles, nerves, tendons, joints, cartilage, and spinal discs. When it comes to work-related MSDs, the job environment and performing multiple tasks are factors that contribute significantly to the condition.
After her experience with the shower stool, Sitek and her husband, Jerry, designed a sturdier version of the product and named it the StandRite-Pro. They submitted a provisional patent application in November 2015, followed by a utility patent application in 2016. The couple completed validation and prototyping in 2018 and were granted a utility patent the next year.
The result is a metal base with a padded foot mat and an upright cushion that people can lean their shins against while they work.
“We create an engaged forward stance, like athletes use,” Jerry Sitek explains. “We flex the knees to unlock the hips, reducing the force that builds in your lower back.”
Seven variations of the product, which is built in Holland with components from Minnesota and Texas, sell for between $295 and $495. With an estimated 90 million Americans standing on the job all day, the market for the StandRite-Pro could be enormous.
There currently are about 140 StandRite-Pros in use, and about half were furnished by the Siteks for trial purposes. The other half were purchased.
Linamar Gear, a global automotive supplier in Guelph, Ontario, Canada, is one company that completed a trial and plans to provide the StandRite-Pro to all of its standing workforce. Eden Valley Poultry in Nova Scotia tested the product for a year, got approval from the Canadian government, and now is equipping its team with StandRite-Pros.
Ryan Moffatt, safety and wellness officer at Eden Valley, reports that one of his employees using the StandRite-Pro is down to one Tylenol a day. That was welcome but not surprising news to Sitek. “It actually heals your body by building your muscles back up,” she says. “Now, I’m the healthiest I’ve ever been.”
With overexertion injuries costing employers $13.4 billion every year, according to Liberty Mutual, purchasing a low-tech device like the StandRite-Pro could be a worthwhile investment for companies of all sizes.