According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), work-related musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) are the most widespread occupational health hazard facing our nation. Nearly one-third of workers compensation claims are due to insufficient ergonomic protection. You can reduce the incidence of workers compensation claims with proper management of ergonomic risk factors in your workplace.
Common ergonomic risk factors include working conditions that involve:
- Hand movements that are repetitive, forceful, or prolonged.
- Frequent or heavy lifting, pushing, pulling, or carrying of heavy objects.
- Maintaining awkward postures for extended periods of time.
Vibration and cold temperatures may add risk to the above conditions. The level of risk associated with any of these conditions depends on their intensity and how long and often workers are exposed to them.
The benefits of an ergonomically-correct workplace include high productivity, decreased risk of illness and injury, and increased satisfaction among employees. In addition, over exertion and fatigue can be reduced.
- Furnish workstations with adjustable assembly tables that allow workers to raise or lower the table to suit their height.
- Adjust position of computer monitors and keyboards to eliminate awkward postures and unnecessary twisting.
- Redesign workstations to eliminate the need to twist and bend to reach for parts.
- Add foot rests to workstations so workers can change position while standing.
- Provide fatigue mats for workers who stand to perform their work duties.
- Replace heavy steel die parts with light-weight aluminum, reducing overall weight and making the die much easier to handle.
- Implement a bulk rack system with miniature rollers and guided slots for cartons, allowing boxes to be slid into position with considerably less effort.
Establishing an Effective Ergonomics Program
Reducing and controlling ergonomic exposures is a proactive way to protect your workforce and control workers compensations costs.
1. Management Commitment and Employee Involvement
Management commitment provides the organizational resources and motivating force necessary to deal effectively with ergonomic hazards. Employee involvement is essential for identifying hazards and for developing and implementing an effective way to eliminate these hazards.
2. Worksite Analysis
Conduct a worksite analysis to identify existing hazards and conditions, operations that create hazards, and areas where hazards may develop. In addition, review injury and illness records to identify patterns of traumas or strains that may indicate workplace conditions or practices that need improvement.
3. Hazard Prevention and Control
Once ergonomic hazards are identified through the worksite analysis, measures should be designed to prevent or control these hazards.
4. Written Program
Develop a written program that establishes clear goals for dealing with ergonomic issues specific to your organization as well as objectives to meet those goals.
5. Regular Program Review and Evaluation
Managers, supervisors, and employees should be involved regularly in reviewing the progress of your ergonomic program, reevaluating goals and objectives, and discussing any necessary changes.
The focus of an ergonomics program is to make the job fit the person, not to force the person to fit the job. Ergonomic risks and solutions vary by industry. To learn more about guidelines specific to your industry, visit http://www.osha.gov/SLTC/ergonomics/index.html
Did You Know..
The bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) has reported the following data regarding musculoskeletal disorders, also known as ergonomic injuries:
- Musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) account for 29 percent of all workplace injuries and illnesses requiring time away from work.
- The median days away from work for MSD cases is 11 days.
- Back injuries account for nearly half of all MSD cases and require a media of 7 days to recuperate.
- Shoulder injuries are the most severe among MSD cases and require a media of 21 days for the worker to return to work.