Ergonomics: An Unregulated, Ongoing Concern
Approximately a quarter of a million workers suffer from musculoskeletal disorders involving days off work annually, according to the latest U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics data.
These injuries–often called ergonomic injuries–occur when the body uses muscles, ligaments, and tendons in an overexerting and repetitive manner often in an awkward position.
The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration defines ergonomic risk factors as “workplace situations that cause wear and tear on the body and can cause injury.”
Although OSHA has not issued regulations covering this area, these injuries are an ongoing concern for the agency and employers since they result in higher days away from work.
MSD injuries on average cause a worker to miss 14 days compared to 12 for all other injury categories combined.
OSHA officials urge employers to mitigate these types of injuries.
In addition to managerial support of ergonomic efforts, OSHA officials suggest companies involve workers in assessing work processes and solutions.
Key components of an effective ergonomics program can include:
- Providing training in a language that is clear to workers and underscores MSD issues
- Providing training that teaches the principles of ergonomics and their applications.
- Acquiring tools or modifying work stations which eliminate unnecessary movement or physical demands
- Learning about the proper use of equipment, tools, and machine controls.
- Using good work practices, including proper lifting techniques.
- Becoming more aware of work tasks that may lead to pain or injury.
- Recognizing early symptoms of MSDs and encouraging workers to report possible issues as quickly as possible.
- Understanding the importance of reporting and addressing early indications of MSDs before serious injuries develop.
Employers should understand that developing a successful ergonomic program is an ongoing effort.
Benchmarks and periodic assessments can facilitate ongoing success.
CONN-OSHA provides Connecticut employers assistance in ergonomics.
The agency’s consulting service offerings include ergonomic evaluations in addition to job hazard analysis, safety and health program development, air sampling, and noise monitoring.
For more information, contact CBIA’s Phillip Montgomery (860.244.1982).
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