The Art of Ergonomics

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By Carl Hamilton
Loss Control and Risk Supervisor
CopperPoint

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), one-third of all employee injury and illness cases are musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) that occur in the workplace. These injuries add up to the most frequently reported causes of lost or restricted work time.

MSDs commonly affect the muscles, nerves, ligaments, and tendons due to poor posture or chronic, repetitive motion. The most common examples of MSDs are:

  • Carpal tunnel syndrome
  • Tendinitis
  • Injuries affecting the shoulder, back and elbow

Historically, companies took employees and put them in a job. In ergonomics, the study of fitting a job to a person, employee safety and productivity comes first. When there is a focus on ergonomics, companies can help lessen muscle fatigue and reduce the number and severity of work-related MSDs.

Start With a Plan

If an employer has workers who are exposed to repetitive motion, a written ergonomics plan may help prevent injuries. Not sure where to begin? Here are some of the best practices I’ve learned from conducting thousands of ergonomic assessments during my career.

  • Analyze risk. Every job has an inherent risk, and it’s critical for employers to be aware of them. Some of highest risk occupations for injury are nurses, firefighters, janitors, cleaners, stock clerks, and production workers. At CopperPoint, we conduct a work station ergonomic study anytime an employee is shorter than 5 feet 4 inches or taller than 6 feet. Consider business cycles, too. If you own an accounting firm, your employees may be at a higher risk during tax season. Awareness is critical to plan and prioritize your efforts.
  • Did I say prioritize? If 80 percent of your staff works on a computer, but only 15 percent are full-time, prioritize corrective action and focus on the full-time employees who are most at risk for injury.
  • Seek expertise. Outside council with certified ergonomists is well worth the effort.
    Partner. Your insurance carrier is a valuable resource.
  • Build a corrective action plan. Do your research and build a long-term plan that is measurable and will stand up even when budgets are tight.

For more information on ergonomics and workplace safety, visit www.osha.gov or http://ergo.human.cornell.edu/

Carl Hamilton is a Loss Control and Risk Management supervisor at CopperPoint Insurance Companies, a leading provider of workers’ compensation insurance and property and casualty insurance products. Hamilton has conducted thousands of ergonomic assessments during his career. He is an active member in the American Society of Safety Engineers (ASSE), National Safety Council (NSC) and the National Association of Safety Professionals. Hamilton holds a bachelor’s degree in public safety administration and emergency management from Grand Canyon University.

Employees Sick Again? 5 Tips to Manage Seasonal Illnesses

DeniseBlommelBy Denise M. Blommel
Attorney

Despite the best weather in the nation, many Arizonans are suffering from allergies, colds and influenza. Human Resource professionals are fielding calls from supervisors about the many employees who are calling in sick and complaining about being short-handed.

On the other hand, even more employees are coming to work hacking and sneezing in order to work more hours to make ends meet. And the government will be mandating seven paid days of sick leave for employees of federal contractors beginning in 2017.

What’s an employer to do? Here are some tips: Continue reading

Preventing illnesses in the workplace

A recent study by Harris and cited by EHS Today found that 81% of Americans have seen someone doing something gross in the workplace. The most common answer was someone wiping his or her runny nose on that person’s own hands or sleeves. The second most common was not covering one’s mouth when sneezing.

Workplaces where employees follow good hygiene practices bear a smaller chance of having sick workers making other people in the office ill.

“While workplaces are full of poor hygiene habits, their frequency tends to increase around cold and flu season,” said Dave Mesko, senior director of marketing for Cintas, a uniform company. “To reduce the spread of viruses and bacteria, businesses need to increase cleaning frequencies and encourage employees to practice proper hand hygiene to keep them from getting sick in the first place.”

Best practices for keeping illness at bay
According to the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), one of the many things managers can do to make sure people don’t get sick is to establish safety and health goals. For example, bringing in an expert to talk about the flu or having a nurse giving people the flu shot are both ways to reduce illness. Another way to help lower the number of sick days in the office is to make sure people know that taking a day off is all right in the first place. When people don’t use their sick leave, then they are working at a time when they are most vulnerable to giving workers illnesses.

Workers can do their part by reporting their illnesses to management, along with following best practices for keeping sickness out of the office. This may include wiping one’s runny nose on tissue paper that is thrown away, washing hands regularly and being sure to cover one’s mouth during a sneeze.

Safety and Health Magazine explained that people should sneeze into the crook of their elbows; to avoid getting germs onto one’s hands. This way if someone has to shake another person’s hand, germs won’t be passed on. Another rule of thumb that could be brought into an office is to isolate potentially sick people to a minimum distance of six feet away from other people. Additionally, it may be a good idea to have disinfecting wipes that can be used to clean desks of germs.