SAFETY MONTH – Keep Each Other Safe

Let’s help keep each other safe this National Safety Month

U.S. Department of Labor

Occupational Safety and Health Administration

Office of Communications

202-693-1999

Department of Labor, United States of America

Let’s help Keep Each Other Safe this National Safety Month

OSHA joins the National Safety Council and thousands of organizations across the country in recognizing June as National Safety Month. According to NSC, preventable deaths are at an all-time high in America. In fact, more than 130,000 people die needlessly every year – one every four minutes. As part of an effort to emphasize the importance of safety both on and off the job, NSC’s Keep Each Other Safe campaign emphasizes the importance of safety and health at work, on the roads, and in our homes and communities. Visit the National Safety Month website to take the SafeAtWork pledge and access downloadable materials, including a poster, tips sheets, and social media graphics. You can also register for a free webinar taking place on June 22.

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ERGONOMICS

Ergonomics is the science of fitting jobs to people, including anatomy, physiology, and psychology. Ergonomic design is the application of this body of knowledge to the design of the workplace (i.e., work tasks, equipment, environment) for safe and efficient use by workers.
Up to 85 percent of the population will suffer from musculoskeletal pain. When workers sit incorrectly, specifically in a posture that is not ergonomically correct for the individual, they can experience musculoskeletal pain. Because musculoskeletal pain is a major source of suffering, health care, and utilization of compensation, there is a definite need for prevention (2).
A large number of people suffer from musculoskeletal pain, making it a leading health-care problem. . .Musculoskeletal pain is a leading cause of health-care visits, particularly in primary care, sick absenteeism, and early pensions. . .Thus preventing disability and high-cost cases may result in large economic savings (2).
Until prevention is granted more resources, programs need to be relatively cheap; and this suggests incorporating them into existing practice routines (2).
A host of ergonomic factors have been found to be associated with musculoskeletal pain, such as lifting, heavy work, twisting, bending, manual handling, and repetitive work.
Studies have shown that people with herniated inter-vertebral discs often have a history of an activity or occupation involving repetitive forward bending. Forward bending has been clearly recognized as a risk factor for low back pain (3).
The body posture of sedentary workers, especially in offices, and of school children has long been a concern of orthopedists and physiologists. The increasing number of office positions, of seated factory workers, of people sitting in cars and airplanes, even of seated soldiers, has augmented the concern about “unhealthful” sitting postures. Complaints about lower back pains are widespread among people who commonly work in the sitting position (4).
As a result of this very common pain and suffering, the Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) has created a standard, 29 CFR Part 1910, which was first published on February 8, 2000, to explain the benefits of prevention of musculoskeletal disorders to both employers and employees.
OSHA expects its workable, practical approach to prevent an average of 460,000 injuries annually and to save businesses $9.1 billion annually because of reduced workplace injuries and greater productivity, with a $27,700 savings in direct costs for each musculoskeletal disorder prevented (1).
OSHA estimates that the cost to an employer to implement the new ergonomics approach will be an average of $250 per work station per year, or a total of $4.5 billion to industry per year. This contrasts with business and industry groups that estimate it will cost U.S. businesses between $18 billion and $120 billion per year (1).

OSHA’s suggestions are as follows:

  • There should be management leadership and employee participation in your ergonomics program.
  • Management should identify and assess any hazards.
  • Employees should be trained to identify, prevent and control possible hazards through information and training. Any ergonomics program you set up should also be evaluated for effectiveness.

REFERENCES:

  1. CBA Report, Cincinnati Bar Association, March, 2001: “Is There Light at the End of the Carpal Tunnel?” written by Ann W. DeVoe, Esq.
  2.  Textbook of Pain, 1998, “Prevention of Disability due to Chronic Musculoskeletal Pain,” written by Steven James Litton.
  3.  Spine, Volume 21, Number 1, pp.71-78, 1996, “Analysis of Lumbar Spine and Hip Motion During Forward Bending in Subjects with and Without a History of Low Back Pain,” written by Marcia A. Esola, M.S., P.T.; Philip W. McClure, M.S., P.T.; G. Kelley Fitzgerald, M.S., P.T.; and Sorin Siegler, Ph.D., U.S.A.
  4. Industrial Medicine, Vol. 38, No. 4, April, 1969, Orthopedics, “Ergonomics in the Design of Office Furniture,” written by K. H. Eberhard Kroemer, Dr. Ing.; Joan C. Robinette, Aerospace Medical Research Laboratory, Aerospace Medical Division, Wright-Paterson Air Force Base, Ohio.

First blog post – ErgoNews

Following is an ErgoNews article I wrote on January 5, 2002:

A coalition of business groups and other employers sued the state of Washington over new ergonomic rules designed to protect workers from injury. (1)

“This is clearly a case of a state agency abusing its power and pushing through a rule based on political agendas,” said Tom McCabe, president of the Building Industry Association of Washington. (1)

“Musculoskeletal disorders are believed to be a major cause of time lost from work and long-term disability.  Payments for Workers’ Compensation claims for these disorders have risen rapidly.” (5)

“Because musculoskeletal pain is a major source of suffering, healthcare and utilization of compensation, there is a definite need for prevention.” (2)

“Research on risk factors indicates that although medical and workplace factors are obvious, psychosocial variables are central to the transition from acute to chronic pain.  The early identification of ‘at risk’ patients is a key to allocating resources and initiating secondary prevention.” (2)

“If only we could prevent disability due to chronic pain from occurring, tremendous suffering and monumental costs would be saved. . .Yet, while disability consumes huge amounts of resources, only a small fraction of the amount of these sums is available to prevent chronic pain problems.” (2)

State officials contend the regulations are long overdue and could prevent thousands of injuries per year.  The labor and industries department has no plans to rescind or revise the regulations, Director Gary Moore said.

One study done in April of 1969 by the Aerospace Medical Research Laboratory, Aerospace Medical Division, Air Force Systems Command, Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio, states:

“The body posture of sedentary workers, especially in offices, and of school children has long been a concern of orthopedists and physiologists.  The increasing number of office positions, of seated factory workers, of people sitting in cars and airplanes, even of seated soldiers, has augmented the concern about ‘unhealthful’ sitting postures.  Complaints about lower back pains are widespread among people who commonly work in the sitting position.  Medical treatment of ailments thought to be connected with the sitting posture, sick leave taken by employees, and reduced work output highlight some of the economic aspects.” (3)

Businesses in industries that report the highest number of injuries must take steps to lower the risks by buying new equipment, repositioning existing equipment, and providing training on how to avoid injury (OSHA).

Major employer groups say the rules will cost them $725 million a year.  The lawsuit also challenges the effectiveness of the ergonomic techniques spelled out in the rules.  (1)

The Occupational Safety & Health Administration expects its workable, practical approach to prevent an average of 460,000 injuries annually and to save businesses $9.1 billion annually because of reduced workplace injuries and greater productivity; with a $27,700 savings in direct costs for each MSD prevented . . .90 percent of American workers are covered by the new OSHA regulation. (4)

FYI:  Ergonomic regulations were passed during the Clinton Administration; but President Bush and Congress repealed them shortly thereafter.

Eugene Scalia, the Labor Department’s top lawyer, has called the regulations “quackery” and “junk science.”

According to  Richard Trumka, AFL-CIO secretary-treasurer:  “The most important question – how we can protect workers from these crippling injuries – is not even being asked.”

At a forum addressing workplace safety in July, 2001, Labor Secretary Chao stated: “We can choose to do one of two things starting today. . .We can play politics, or we can protect workers.  We can engage in sideshows, or we can pursue safety.”

REFERENCES:

  1. “Business Groups Sue Washington State, Say New Ergonomics Rules Place Burden on Employers,” written by Paul Queary.

  2. “Prevention of Disability Due to Chronic Musculoskeletal Pain,” written by Steven James Linton.

  3. “Ergonomics in the Design of Office Furniture,” written by E. H. Eberhard Kroemer, Dr. Ing., Joan C. Robinette, Aerospace Medical Research Laboratory, Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio.

  4. “Is there Light at the End of the Carpal Tunnel?” written by Ann W. DeVoe, Esq., CBA Report.

  5. American Journal of Industrial Medicine 19:87-107 (1991), “Workplace Ergonomic Factors and the Development of Musculoskeletal Disorders of the Neck and Upper Limbs:  A Meta-analysis,” written by Susan Stock, M.D.