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HEALTH

Ergonomics  / Re-Engineered Ergonomics

“The Study of Man and his Relationship to his Work”
 
Ergonomics/human factors is a multidisciplinary activity striving to assemble information on people's capacities for use in designing jobs, products, workplaces, and equipment. The process is inter-disciplinarian: it bases its theories on physiology, psychology, anthropometry, and various aspects of engineering. In the past, ergonomics served mainly to increase efficiency, and thereby productivity. This is no longer the prime goal. Indeed now, the following objectives more closely define the benefits to be gained by ergonomic research:

Health Consultants, Inc. Prevention Programs

Step #1 Program Development – We assist you in establishing your goals and objectives too initiate an ergonomic program which involves the following:
SStep #2 Job Site Analysis-We analyze to determine if
certain engineering or administrative controls are
needed which, exclude awkward postures, repetition,
forces, or changes in frequencies. Our staff utilizes
several quantitative and qualitative methods to determine
the risk factors at the job site to include:
  • The HumanTech™ Ergonomic Modules – “Hit List”,
    Baseline Risk of Ergonomic Factors (BRIEF), BRIEF
    Exposure Scoring Technique (BEST) Ergonomic
    Assessment Survey (EASY), Employee Survey, and
    Cost Benefit Analysis.
    Rapid Entire Body Assessment (REBA)
    Rapid Upper Limb Assessment (RULA)
    Strain Index (SI)
    Occupational Repetitive Action Index
    Cumulative Trauma Disorder Risk Assessment Index
    Psychophysical Assessment Methods for Manual
    Material Handling – Snook Tables
    National Institute of Safety and Health (NIOSH)
    Revised Lifting Equation
  • National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) - Using the NIOSH Manual Material Handling guidelines, job sites that involve lifting are evaluated. This evaluation involves a determination of such factors as object weight, frequency of lift, location at time of lift, relation of object to the center of the body, and vertical distance of lift. These data are mathematically computed to determine the Maximum Permissible Lift and Action Level and whether the operation is in excess of these. Only 25% of males and 1% of females are able to lift at or above the MPL without injury, whereas 99% of males and 75% of females are able to perform at or below the AL without injury. The goal is to use this data to make job site adjustments to prevent injuries.
  • Tool Design - An evaluation of tools you utilize, which may place body parts such as the hands and wrists into awkward positions, which may lead to hand or wrist injury. Identification of other job sites into which your employees may be rotated periodically which are less stringent or intensive to the hand and wrist.
  • Anthropometric Measuring - Measurements of your job sites are taken to determine the percentile of the population by body size or part, which can safely perform the job functions.
    Step #3 Written Report - The results of each of the evaluations and analyses are presented to you in a written report outlining a “Road-Map” to the development of and continuation of a RSI prevention program. The report technically outlines findings with recommendations on actions that you will need, to prevent the injuries now and in the future, while at the same insuring compliance with the provisions of the anticipated OSHA standard.
The following are areas some of the areas that are identified:
  • Worker Training  -Training sessions to teach your employees about the hazards involved with his or her work-site, methods to prevent injury, warm-up exercises and methods to work-harden themselves against injury.
  • Supervisors Training  – Training sessions to teach your supervisors techniques to monitor the workplace and the behaviors of workers that may lead to RSI injuries.
  • Ergonomic Coordinator Training – This training is for those your individual(s) assigned with the responsibility of development and coordination of the Ergonomic program.
  • Medical Management Program - Coordination and collaboration with your medical support personnel is developed. This involves sessions with your support medical personnel to ensure that they are aware of the ergonomic hazards at the particular job sites when they are evaluating them for injuries or illnesses, both occupational and non-occupational. Also a program of light duty and specialty evaluations can be developed.
  • Methods for Monitoring and Feedback - This involves a method for workers and supervisors to monitor and provide feedback to management, in an ongoing prevention program. Also our consultants will complete a survey each quarter to evaluate the success of the program instituted.
Re-Engineered Ergonomics


“The Study of Man and his Relationship to his Work” 

 
One of the greatest threats to the competitiveness and “bottom line” for employers today is the risk of occupational Repetitive Stress Injuries (RSI) in their workforce. Quite often, frustrated by the requirements of regulatory guidelines, the employer looses sight of the fact that these types of injuries are the fastest growing workplace injuries. Injuries, which directly affect the cost of doing business. At the present time these injuries cost US employers approximately $15- $20,000,000,000.00 a year in direct medical cost and $45-$60,000,000,000.00 in indirect, non-insured cost. Each year more than 650,000 lost workday cases occur. Of these, the majority are the most costly in the form of back injuries. Considering that the workforce is aging with the becoming of age of the Post World War II Babyboomers, yielding an average age of the population at 40 years old, it is inevitable that the incidence of musculo-skeletal disorders will continue to rise. At present, there are more than one hundred different types of job-induced injuries and illnesses resulting from wear and tear on the body. As significant as the age factor is, in addition, employers are struggling with an ever-decreasing labor pool so that every effort to maintain their workforce is needed. It just makes good business sense to take action to prevent these injuries now rather than making business decisions dependent upon whether the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) will issue a requirement or not.

 
Another factor contributing to the rates of RSI is the increasing number of females in the workforce. In 1960, less than one-half of females in the population were in the paid workforce. Today more than seventy-five percent are working. Studies indicate that females are at more risk for the onset of RSI due to several anatomical and physiological factors at some job sites than are their male counterpart.


At any rate, it is apparent that the OSHA has identified the need to issue a standard and has conducted the research necessary to prove that viable Ergonomic programs work. As such, after initially beginning work toward issuing guidelines back in 1979, on November 23, 1999 the agency promulgated a proposed standard in the federal register. This followed a failed attempt by members of the US Congress to again prevent the agency from issuing a standard. Apparently the evidence indicating that actions are needed to prevent RSI lead to their decision to vote against the resolution. This is understandable in consideration of the aforementioned cost to US employers with evidence that 2.73 million worker’s compensation claims for RSIs have occurred in recent years. Also, the fact that OSHA estimates that one out of three workers’ compensation dollars paid for claims are for these type injuries. In a presentation in Atlanta on January 18, 2000, Jim Drake, OSHA Ergonomic Coordinator, Region IV, indicated that activities to finalize the standard are “on track” and the goal is to finalize by December 2000.


Introduction

In recent years, there has been a significant increase in the reporting of cumulative trauma disorders (CTDs) and other work-related disorders due to ergonomic hazards. CTDs account for an increasingly large percentage of workers’ compensation costs each year, and they represent nearly half of the occupational illnesses reported in the annual Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) survey. Government agencies report that much of the increase in CTDs is due to changes in process and technology that expose employees to increased repetitive motion and other ergonomic risk factors; some may be attributed to increased awareness --by industry, labor, and government--and reporting of these disorders.

A major factor which may contribute to the incidence of CTDs now and in the future relates to the aging workforce in America. With the becoming of age of the "baby-boomers," who make up 1/3 of the American population (78 million) and at least half the workforce, the average age of the population is 40 years old. As such, from an ergonomic perspective, older workers are more subject to disorders of the musculo-skeletal system such as those caused by repetitive motion and other ergonomic risk factors.


In addition to an aging workforce, in regards to ergonomic issues one must consider the changing sexual demographics. In 1960, less than one-half (½) of females in the "child-bearing" years (25-34) and "post child-bearing" years (35 >) were in the paid workforce. In the past twenty years an estimated three-quarters (¾) are in the paid workforce. Though females perform on an equal basis as their male-counterpart, there ability to push, pull, lift, etc. is different.

Regulatory Action


According to government experts, finding solutions to the problems posed by ergonomic hazards may well be the most significant workplace safety and health issue of the 1990’s and beyond. Of course, the effective management of worker safety and health protection includes all work-related hazards, whether or not they are regulated by specific federal standards. The OSHAct clearly states that the general duty of all employers is to provide their employees with a workplace free from recognized serious hazards. This includes the prevention and control of ergonomic hazards.


In January 1989, OSHA published voluntary, general Safety and Health Program Management Guidelines (Federal Register, Vol. 54, No. 16, January 26, 1989, pp. 3904-3916), which are recommended to all employers as a foundation for their safety and health programs and as a framework for their ergonomics programs. In addition, OSHA has developed ergonomics program management guidelines specifically for the meatpacking industry.


Related to these guidelines, OSHA has stated that they expect employers to implement effective ergonomics programs, adapted to their particular workplaces, containing the major elements described in the guidelines. OSHA’s field inspection staff have been instructed that failure to implement the guidelines is not in itself a violation of the General Duty Clause of the OSHAct. The guidelines provide information on the steps employers should take (1) to determine if they have ergonomic-related problems in their work-places, (2) to identify the nature and location of those problems, and (3) to implement measures to reduce or eliminate them.

Program Elements


OSHA has stated that employers should take whatever measures are appropriate -- including those set forth in the guidelines -- to address the problems found, if any. If no problems exist, employers should keep on with current efforts to maintain a safe and healthful workplace. The guidelines are divided into three primary sections:
These guidelines are based on technical discussions and recommendations from the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), representatives of industry, employee representatives in industry, and other sources.
The four program elements are:
  • Worksite Analysis
  • Hazard prevention and control
  • Medical management
  • Training and education
Ergonomic Training Course for Program Management Personnel
Training and education is one of the major elements outlined by the OSHA and the NIOSH to prevent the occurrence of ergonomically related injuries and illnesses. Such training is beneficial for employees who may be at risk to ergonomic type hazards and those with the responsibility to evaluate job sites where such risk exist.
The staff of Health Consultants, Inc. provides several different training courses to assist employers in the area of ergonomic injury/illness prevention. These programs include:
  • Program Management Personnel Course
  • Production Worker Course
  • Supervisor’s Course
  • Occupational Health Nurse Course
Program Management Personnel Course


This 8 hour course is designed for those personnel who have the responsibility to evaluate worksites in order to identify ergonomic hazards and to assess the risk of exposure to such hazards. In addition, the methods to abate or eliminate the hazard and or decrease the risk is discussed.


The specific course subjects include:
The subjects discussed include:
 
Links of Interest
New OSHA Guidelines
Largest OSHA Ergonomics Case Citation 5/18/99
Translation Services for your MSDSs and other documents
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