Reduce, Prevent Work-Related Injuries with Implementation of Ergonomics
Musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) represent one-third of all disabling workplace incidents and more than 40% of Workers Compensation costs in the U.S., according to a recent article in Professional Safety, Journal of the American Society of Safety Engineers. Overall, in fact, the rise of work-place injuries related to musculoskeletal disorders costs U.S. businesses more than $20 billion annually. In 2011, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that industries with the highest MSD rates include healthcare, transportation and warehousing, retail and wholesale trade and construction. MSDs are injuries or disorders of the muscles, nerves, tendons, joints, cartilage and spinal discs, as defined by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).
These types of injuries can be reduced and prevented if business included ergonomic risk assessments as part of their occupational health and safety management systems, the article cites. “The lack of ergonomic principles in workplace design can lead to inherently flawed systems that are costly to retrofit and correct,” authors Bruce Lyon, Georgi Popov and Kevin Hanes write. Ergonomics is the study of how workplace and equipment can best be designed for comfort, safety, efficiency, productivity and fitting the job to the person and with the design of safe systems of work.
The following from OSHA are important elements of an ergonomic process:
- Provide Management Support – A strong commitment by management is critical to the overall success of an ergonomic process. Management should define clear goals and objectives for the ergonomic process, discuss them with their workers, assign responsibilities to designated staff members, and communicate clearly with the workforce.
- Involve Workers – A participatory ergonomic approach, where workers are directly involved in worksite assessments, solution development and implementation is the essence of a successful ergonomic process. Workers can:
- Identify and provide important information about hazards in their workplaces.
- Assist in the ergonomic process by voicing their concerns and suggestions for reducing exposure to risk factors and by evaluating the changes made as a result of an ergonomic assessment.
- Provide Training – Training is an important element in the ergonomic process. It ensures that workers are aware of ergonomics and its benefits, become informed about ergonomics related concerns in the workplace, and understand the importance of reporting early symptoms of MSDs.
- Identify Problems – An important step in the ergonomic process is to identify and assess ergonomic problems in the workplace before they result in MSDs.
- Encourage Early Reporting of MSD Symptoms – Early reporting can accelerate the job assessment and improvement process, helping to prevent or reduce the progression of symptoms, the development of serious injuries, and subsequent lost-time claims.
- Implement Solutions to Control Hazards – There are many possible solutions that can be implemented to reduce, control or eliminate workplace MSDs. These can include modifying existing equipment, making changes in work practices and purchasing new tools or other devices to assist in the production process.
- Evaluate Progress – Established evaluation and corrective action procedures need to be in place to periodically assess the effectiveness of the ergonomic process and to ensure its continuous improvement and long-term success. As an ergonomic process is first developing, assessments should include determining whether goals set for the ergonomic process have been met and determining the success of the implemented ergonomic solutions.
In addition, it’s recommended that a company review its Workers’ Compensation claims and incident reports to determine if jobs or tasks have a history of MSDs. In looking at that history and talking to employees in those work areas, management may be able to identify, collect, analyze and evaluate each risk’s severity.
At Caitlin-Morgan, we provide agents and brokers with Workers Compensation solutions for their insureds, including access to ergonomic workplace assessments to determine where injuries can be prevented or reduced. Please give us a call at 877.226.1027 to discuss our programs.