How Movement at Work Can Make a Difference: An Ergonomics Update

Phil Yacuboski

Sarasota, FL (WorkersCompensation.com) – It might be the way our workload is changing or the way we are using our hands (typing and texting for example), but ergonomic injuries — overexertion and repetitive motions of our hands — were the second-leading cause of emergency room visits in 2013 for people ages 25-64, according to the National Safety Council (NSC).

“They account for 30-35 percent of workers’ comp injuries,” said Mark Giordano, a retired Senior Ergonomics Consultant for the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation. “Most of them have to do with shoulder injuries, carpal tunnel and the lower back. Ergonomics, if properly done and properly installed in the workplace, (it) can help reduce costs.”

He said carpal tunnel and lower back injuries are two of the most costly workers’ comp injuries. Others include excessive stretching, working in awkward positions and sitting or standing for a long period of time.

Giordano said most ergonomic injuries happen due to the demand on our bodies and our bodies not being able to handle the workload.

“The goal is to redesign the workplace and to redesign the job to reduce those injuries,” Giordano said. “That way, the employee can handle the workload better.”

He said that includes customizing a job to the actual person is best; that means looking at how much a person can lift, analyzing what height they best work at and anything else that can be adjusted.

“Adjustable sit and stand workstations help because it’s what the employee wants to do,” he said.

Overexertion, according to the NSC, is the largest contributor to workers’ compensation costs, adding up to $15 billion per year. More than 320,000 miss work every year because of these injuries, according to the figures.

Giordano said some employers are very aggressive in helping, while others are not.

“If they see the benefit in it, they do it,” he said. “It’s not a quick fix a lot of times, but some companies are willing to do it.”

Insurance companies are constantly advising their customers about how to best go about the process of preventing these injuries.

“Ask folks who do that job every day ‘what would they change in that job function to make it more comfortable?’ to reduce repetition and to make for less stress and fatigue,” said Eric Bourquin, Vice-President of Safety Services, at Texas Mutual Insurance Company.

He also suggested having others who don’t do the job regularly to also look at the function to see if they can identify changes.

“Something as simple moving a pallet (to potentially) reduce the travel and the stress and strain on your body,” he said. “Ask for feedback from the workers.”

He suggested the conversation be ongoing.

“Technology has mitigated more of the risk factors,” Bourquin said. “The way we did things years ago in an industry or a manufacturing process has changed dramatically and innovation has moved it forward at a significant pace.”

He said where you see the disconnect is where there is not modernization.

“That means employing the tools out there to lower the risk factors,” he said.

According to the NSC, government and education had the most ergonomic injuries, followed by manufacturing and retail.

 

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