Implementing an Effective Ergonomic Safety Program


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Musculoskeletal Disorders (MSD), such as carpal tunnel syndrome, can be disabling, painful and costly. Incorporating appropriate ergonomics practices in the workplace can help to reduce the likelihood of these disorders from occurring and can greatly improve employee wellbeing and productivity.

What exactly is ergonomics and how can an ergonomically sound workstation be instituted? We address these questions in this report.

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Implementing an Effective Ergonomic Safety Program

  1. 1. [Type text] Implementing an Effective Ergonomic Safety Program In many states across the country, and in particular, states such as Texas, Florida, and California, Workers’ compensation insurance always seems to be on the forefront of business owner’s mind. Rising premiums, insurance costs and debates in Sacramento always seem to take up the headlines. However, recently, another workers’ compensation related word has been heard a lot - ergonomics. What exactly is ergonomics and how does it impact the workplace? The word ergonomics is derived from Greek and literally means “the science of work.” Ergonomics is defined as the customization of products, tasks, and the environment for the worker, resulting in an increase of quality, productivity and safety in the workplace. Musculoskeletal Disorders One of the chief consequences of poor ergonomics in the workplace is susceptibility to musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs). MSDs are characterized by pain, tingling, numbness, stiffness or inflammation of muscles, joints, tendons or ligaments in various parts of the body. The financial impact of MSDs is staggering. The US Bureau of Labor Statistics maintains that approximately 650,000 work-related MSDs generate costs of over $20 billion per year. In fact, $1 in every $3 of Worker Compensation payments is caused by MSDs. This figure does not include indirect costs of $150 billion per year shelled out for expenses such as staff replacement and retraining, loss of quality and productivity, and absenteeism. Employers would do well to invest time, effort and capital into effective ergonomics practices for their workplace, preventing musculoskeletal disorders and saving money and unnecessary hassle in the long run. Getting Started Employers can begin implementing good ergonomics practices by surveying the workplace, encouraging employee feedback, applying preventive measures and addressing problems promptly. Ergonomics principles have a wide range of applications. Let’s examine several key areas that can be improved greatly by applying some quick and easy changes. 9000 Sunset Blvd, Suite 900, West Hollywood, CA 90069 | | 800-850-7133
  2. 2. [Type text] Body Mechanics Teach your employees the following helpful suggestions, which are easy to implement and can go a long way in preventing musculoskeletal disorders: Lift objects with two hands rather than one, push and pull or slide objects instead of lifting them, carry objects at waist-level and close to the body, try to minimize reaching and use the largest muscles and joints to execute tasks. Stretching is a great way to reduce the risk of musculoskeletal disorders. Relax your muscles, stretch and switch positions. Taking regular rest breaks will help ease eye strain, muscle aches and stress. Don’t forget to turn your eyes away from the screen occasionally and focus on a faraway object. Repetition One of the major causes of MSDs is repetitive movements over a significant time span. To reduce repetitive movements, alternate tasks and activities to ensure use of various muscle groups. Take short, frequent breaks and eliminate needless movements and tasks by redesigning workstations and procedures. The Basic Elements of an Ergonomically Correct Workstation Continuing our discussion on establishing ergonomics practices in the workplace, we take a closer look at the office workstation. Some simple changes can yield tremendous results in preventing musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs); saving employers time, and preventing future aggravation and loss of productivity. 9000 Sunset Blvd, Suite 900, West Hollywood, CA 90069 | | 800-850-7133
  3. 3. [Type text] Office Ergonomics: The Basics The following is a comprehensive list of instructions for creating an ergonomically correct office workspace:  Sit directly in front of the monitor  The top of the monitor screen should be about arm’s length away and at or below eye level  Add an anti-glare filter, or tilt and turn the monitor screen to eliminate reflections  Decrease overhead lighting and use window shades effectively in order to reduce glare on work surfaces  Procure a task light to suitably illuminate documents  Use a document holder to position source documents adjacent to the computer screen and at the same height and distance  Position the mouse and other input devices near to the keyboard  Allow ample clearance under the keyboard support to allow for knee and leg movement  Sit with head and neck in upright position; use headsets for frequent phone use  Keep your elbows close to the body and your shoulders relaxed  Choose a chair that allows for space behind the knees  Utilize the backrest of the chair, providing full support – predominantly for the lower back  To facilitate proper posture, adjust chair height  Modify the chair or keyboard height to make sure that forearms, wrists and hands are in a straight line while using the keyboard  Use fabric partitions, earplugs, music or a small fan to block or mask noise Ergonomic Equipment The right equipment can make all the difference to establishing an ergonomic work environment. Let’s examine some of the equipment available on the market that can help create a comfortable office environment. 1. Articulating Keyboard Tray Articulating keyboard trays provide the user with considerable flexibility in positioning the keyboard, facilitating good posture and neutral positioning of hands, wrists and arms. Height adjustability, tilt or slope capabilities, moving in and out from under the desk, mouse attachments and wrist or palm rests are some of the features that contribute to articulating keyboard trays’ ergonomic value. 9000 Sunset Blvd, Suite 900, West Hollywood, CA 90069 | | 800-850-7133
  4. 4. [Type text] 2. Wrist or Palm Rests When investing in a wrist or palm rest, be sure to buy one that is even with the top of the keyboard. Avoid hard plastic; the material should be “medium soft.” Avoid relaxing your hands on the rest as this compresses the carpal tunnel. Instead, rest the palm or heel of the hand. The rest is most useful for relaxing your hands during pauses in typing. Interestingly, even more important than wrist support is changing one’s typing habits. Workers should learn how to type properly with “floating wrists.” 3. Chairs The main factor to focus on when purchasing ergonomic office chairs is adjustability. Chairs should have an adjustable back, height and angle. In this manner, each employee can manipulate the chair to best provide support and stability according to their particular size and shape. A five-leg “star” base is the best choice for sturdiness and safety. 4. Monitor Stands Monitor stands allow workers to position the monitor at the desirable height, preventing awkward postures and neck strain that result from looking up or down at the screen. 5. Document Holders Most computer users have to strain their necks to look down at their documentation. Document holders bring reading material up to eye level. Appropriate use of document holders may reduce or eliminate risk factors such as fatigue, eye strain, awkward head and neck postures and headaches. 6. Alternative Pointing Devices A variety of pointing devices are available on the market, allowing users to match the right mouse to their particular needs. For example, if one notices pain in the fingers used for “clicking,” a vertical mouse with thumb-clicking is ideal. A vertical mouse also keeps the wrist in a neutral position. A worker with wrist pain would do well with a track-ball, which eliminates the need to move the wrist back and forth. 9000 Sunset Blvd, Suite 900, West Hollywood, CA 90069 | | 800-850-7133
  5. 5. [Type text] Pointing devices come in a variety of sizes; each employee should choose the size of pointing device most appropriate for their hand. 7. Laptops By design, laptops are not ergonomic – because the screen is attached to keyboard. Either the monitor will be too low, or the keyboard will be too high. Laptops can be improved ergonomically by acquiring a stand to raise the screen up to eye level and using a separate keyboard and mouse, which are plugged into the laptop. Conclusion MSDs can be disabling, painful and costly. Addressing potential issues and incorporating appropriate ergonomics practices in the workplace can help to reduce the likelihood of these disorders from occurring and can greatly improve employee wellbeing and productivity. In many cases, businesses do not have the required expertise in-house to implement an effective safety program. In that case, accessing specialists familiar with ergonomics is highly recommended. About CPEhr Founded in 1982, CPEhr is a California-based Human Resources Outsourcing firm, offering businesses an alternative for handling many HR responsibilities, including safety consulting, risk management, claims administration, and California workmans compensation insurance products. However, beyond safety and workers’comp, CPEhr specializes in the following key employment areas: • Employment administration • Management training • Employee relations • Payroll and employment tax compliance • Comprehensive employee benefits programs. Headquartered in Los Angeles, CPEhr has been ranked by the Los Angeles Business Journal as one of the “Best Places To Work”, four years running. It is currently one of the largest privately held HR Outsourcing firms in the state. 9000 Sunset Blvd, Suite 900, West Hollywood, CA 90069 | | 800-850-7133