Steps to Solving Ergonomics Problems
Implement an ergonomics program
Form an ergonomics team
An ergonomics team should be made up of representatives from labor and management. It should also include individuals who are knowledgeable about ergonomics and the medical treatment of ergonomic injuries.
A comprehensive ergonomics program includes:
Finding ergonomic injuries and their causes
Raise awareness about ergonomics by training workers and supervisors.
Workers and their supervisors should receive training about the causes and prevention of RSIs. The training should cover:
Collect information on employees’ injuries and discomfort.
Find out which workers have been injured or are having pain. The information can be obtained by:
Identify risk factors in the workplace that cause injury and discomfort.
A job analysis means taking a close look at a job to see what conditions are causing problems. It is important to look at all the tasks that are part of a job. For example, to find the cause of carpal tunnel syndrome for library clerks, the job analysis should look at computer work, book handling and other repetitive tasks performed with the hands. A sample job analysis checklist for computer operators is in Figure 4.
The main risk factors to look for are:
Develop ways to control ergonomic hazards by modifying equipment and the organization of work.
As with chemical or other hazards, management should eliminate ergonomic hazards with equipment that gets rid of the risk. Other control measures include work organization and training.
1. Equipment can control ergonomic risks
The following are examples of equipment that can get rid of or reduce ergonomic risks:
2. Work organization changes
|The way work is done can be changed without requiring different equipment. Here are some examples:
3. Use safe lifting techniques to prevent back injuries
WARNING!!! Safe lifting techniques are not enough to prevent back injuries. Using safe lifting techniques are often not practical, especially when lifting patients. Also, the greatest cause of back injuries is total weight lifted. When people are lifting too much, even using proper techniques may not prevent a back injury.
Back belts are not the answer to preventing back injuries
The National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) concluded that there is a lack of scientific evidence that back belts work. In fact, relying on back belts to prevent back injuries might even make the problem worse. The risk of a back injury increases if workers wearing belts try to lift more weight than they would have if they were not wearing a belt.
Implement a medical management program to identify rsis early and to ensure appropriate medical treatment
The proper medical management of RSIs requires:
A medical management program includes the following components:
Identify or create light duty positions and make other job accommodations
Workers who have an RSI, are returning to work after an injury, or are experiencing symptoms may need accommodations to reduce exposure to ergonomic risk factors. Light duty positions or switching to another job temporarily or permanently are methods to help injured workers.
Evaluate the effectiveness of the ergonomics program
The ergonomics program should be evaluated to determine if it is working. Records should be reviewed to find out if there are fewer injuries, or less lost and/or restricted work time, sick leave, overtime, medical, and other costs. Symptoms surveys should be conducted periodically to see if health complaints are decreasing.
Laws to prevent RSIs
At the time of this writing, there are no federal OSHA standards on ergonomics.
See the following publications and web sites for more information
AFSCME fact sheets:
AFSCME: The Keys to Healthy Computing
American National Standards Institute, American National Standard for Human Factors Engineering of Visual Display Terminal Workstations, ANSI/HFS 100-1988
National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), Back Belts: Do They Prevent Injury? NIOSH Publication #94-127
NIOSH, A Critical Review of Musculoskeletal Disorders and Workplace Factors,
NIOSH, Elements of Ergonomics Programs,
NIOSH, Updated Guidance on How to Design Safe Lifting Job!
Occupational Safety and Health Administration,
Edited by Putz-Anderson, Vern, Cumulative Trauma Disorders: A Manual for Musculoskeletal Diseases of the Upper Limbs, 1988