Preventing Injuries With Ergonomics

WRITTEN BY GARY SMITH, APARTMENT BUILDING MANAGEMENT WORKERS COMPENSATION SELF INSURED FUND

Ergonomics is the science and practice of designing jobs and workplaces to match the capabilities and limitations of the human body or, more simply, fitting the job to the worker.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), in 2015, musculo-skeletal disorders (MSDs) accounted for 31 percent of total injury and illness cases for all workers. Work-related MSDs are among the most frequently reported causes of lost or restricted work time cases. These injuries occur gradually and involve muscles, tendons, ligaments, blood vessels, and joints of the neck, shoulders, arms, wrists, legs and back, which are often referred to as soft tissue injuries.

Ergonomics may be used in all workplaces to prevent MSDs. Workers will experience improved quality of work, improved quality of life, and reduced fatigue and discomfort.

In order to apply ergonomic practices in your workplace, let’s review some basic principles:

Identify Workers with Risk Factors

Evaluate workers performing custodial/janitorial, maintenance/service, and administrative activities to identify those with the common risk factors:

  • Exerting force to perform a task or to use a tool (e.g., lifting tables/chairs or scrubbing with a brush).
  • Working in awkward postures (e.g., bending or twisting the back, overhead reaching for dusting or painting, or mopping with elbows away from the body).
  • Remaining in the same position for a long time with little or no movement (e.g., sitting at desk).
  • Continuous pressure from a hard surface or edge on any part of the body (e.g., improperly adjusted chair and desk height).
  • Working in hot or cold temperatures.
  • Holding equipment that vibrates (e.g., the handle of a pressure washer).

If risk factors are present, then they need to be assessed to determine the significance of the risk.

Assess Significance of Risk Factors

Assess each risk factor to determine if they are likely hazards for MSDs by considering the following three things:

  • Duration (how long) – Usually, duration involves hours of exposure and not just minutes. But, exposure can be cumulative over the day and not just all at one time.
  • Frequency (how often) – Frequency addresses the speed of the work. Lifting
    30 lb boxes more than 5 times per minute can be considered frequent.
  • Intensity (how much) – Refers to force, such as weight in pounds lifted/carried, grip or pinch force, vibration level, and force on keys when typing.

The longer exposure to risk factors and a combination of risk factors will greatly increase the chance for injury. Symptoms such as discomfort, pain, numbness, tingling/burning, swelling/inflammation, changes in skin color and loss of flexibility may likely indicate a MSD. If no changes are made, then symptoms may get worse and result in lost work days.

Methods of Preventing MSDs

These are common methods for controlling MSDs, and rank in their order of effectiveness with the first (i.e., engineering controls) being the most effective.

  • Engineering controls (e.g., redesign work areas to eliminate reaching, bending, or other awkward postures and providing carts for transporting materials)
  • Administrative controls (e.g., providing sufficient breaks, since adequate recovery time can reduce fatigue, and employee training on safe lifting)
  • Safe work practices (e.g. stretching and safe lifting)
  • Personal protective equipment (e.g., knee pads for kneeling and gloves to protect against cold, vibration and rough surfaces). Note: NIOSH recommends that employers do not rely on back belts to protect workers as studies have shown they are not effective in preventing back injuries.

For detailed information on methods of preventing MSDs in your workplace, see the resources provided below.

Should you require additional assistance with ergonomic assessments or training in your workplace, please contact Gary Smith, CRM, at (517) 338-3367 or gary.smith@yorkrsg.com.

Resources:

Working Safer and Easier for Janitors, Custodians and Housekeepers; published 2005 by the California Department of Industrial Relations at http://www.dir.ca.gov/dosh/dosh_publications/Janitors.pdf

A Clean Sweep: Safe Work Practices for Custodians; published June 2006 by WorkSafeBC at https://www.worksafebc.com/en/resources/health-safety/books-guides/a-clean-sweep?lang=en

Office Ergonomics Resources including setting up a workstations and self-assessment forms at SAIF Corporation: https://www.saif.com/safetyandhealth/topics/prevent-injuries/ergonomics.html

Ergonomics Resources from OSHA at https://www.osha.gov/SLTC/ergonomics/

 

Posted in 2017, OCTOBER 2017 | Leave a comment

Advocacy Update

Forrest WallWritten by Forrest Wall, CAE, Staff Vice President and Industry Relations

Amendment to Elliott-Larsen Act Introduced

Legislation has recently been introduced in the Michigan House of Representatives to amend the Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act. House Bill 4872 proposes to amend both the title of the act and section 502 relating to real estate transactions. The legislation would add “military status” to the protected classes under section 502, and defines that term to cover both active duty military personnel and veterans. Currently, Michigan’s civil rights law prohibits discrimination in real estate transactions on the basis of religion, race, color, national origin, age, sex, familial status, and marital status.

Trump Administration to Review Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing Rule

U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Secretary Ben Carson has announced that the department will reinterpret the Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing (AFFH) Rule. This controversial rule, finalized by HUD under the Obama Administration, requires that local governments receiving HUD funds analyze their housing occupancy for racial bias and formulate a plan to address any imbalance. Local governments submit the plan to HUD, with progress tracked over a five year period. Non-compliant communities can face loss of federal funding or lawsuit under the disparate impact doctrine. A number of industry groups, such as the National Apartment Association, have sought a review of the rule. In July, a group of Congressmen and Senators sent a letter to Secretary Carson requesting that the rule be rescinded. Additionally, legislation introduced in Congress proposes to defund implementation of the rule.

Fair Housing Seminar Set for November 15

If you have staff in need of a Fair Housing seminar, AAM has scheduled a program for Wednesday, November 15 from 9:00 am – Noon. The instructor will be Kathleen Mabie of Success OnSite. Please visit www.apartments.org and click the link at the top of the page for details and registration.

 

Posted in OCTOBER 2017 | Leave a comment

Advocacy Update

Forrest WallWritten by Forrest Wall, CAE, Staff Vice President and Industry Relations

Bedbug Legislation Introduced

Legislation has been introduced in Michigan House of Representatives to address bedbug infestations in rental property. House Bill 4719 proposes to add a section in the Landlord and Tenant Relationships Act (Public Act 348 of 1972) to provide for the responsibilities of tenants and landlords in situations where bedbugs are suspected and/or present.

The bill provides that a landlord shall not enter into a lease if the landlord knows the rental unit is infested with bedbugs, and, when entering a lease agreement the landlord shall supply the tenant with information relating to identification of bedbugs and keeping a rental unit free of bedbugs. The landlord has 7 days from receipt of written notice of suspected infestation to schedule a unit inspection, and if the inspection confirms infestation then the landlord has 7 days to begin control measures and schedule inspection of adjoining units. Treatment is to be carried out by a licensed pest management professional. After written notice to the landlord of suspected infestation, a tenant shall grant access for inspection/treatment and comply with the control protocol established by the landlord or the landlord’s pest management professional. The bill also bans tenant treatment of a rental unit. Furthermore, if the tenant or the tenant’s guest causes an infestation, the tenant shall pay the cost of treatment for that unit and any other areas where bedbugs have spread. The bill specifically states the landlord is not liable, except in cases of negligence, for damages arising from an infestation or treatment. The legislation also allows a landlord and tenant to agree in writing how responsibility is to be assigned for costs associated with an infestation. Finally, there is a preemption of local ordinances for control or treatment of bedbugs in conflict with the provisions of the bill.

 

Posted in 2017, SEPTEMBER 2017 | Comments Off on Advocacy Update

Incident Investigation “How-To”

WRITTEN BY GARY SMITH, APARTMENT BUILDING MANAGEMENT WORKERS COMPENSATION SELF INSURED FUND

National Safety Council provides an excellent document on how to conduct an incident investigation, and the following is an excerpt.

Your company has just experienced an incident resulting in an injury to a worker. Now what? Reacting quickly to the incident with a prescribed procedure and actions can demonstrate your company’s commitment to safety and ensure the proper information is collected to fulfill an incident investigation’s ultimate purpose – to prevent future incidents.

Steps in an Investigation Process
The investigation process should begin after arranging for first aid or medical treatment for the injured person(s). In getting started, remind everyone involved, especially workers, that the investigation is to learn and prevent, not find fault. Steps of the investigation process include:

  • Call or gather the necessary person(s) to conduct the investigation and obtain the investigation kit.
  • Secure the area where the injury occurred and preserve the work area as it is.
  • Identify and gather witnesses to the injury event.
  • Interview the involved worker.
  • Interview all witnesses.
  • Document the scene of the injury through photos or videos.
  • Complete the investigation report, including determination of what caused the incident and what corrective actions will prevent recurrences.
  • Use results to improve the injury and illness prevention program to better identify and control hazards before they result in incidents.
  • Ensure follow-up on completion of corrective actions.

What to Include in the Documented Investigation Process
As with many processes, preparation and documentation are crucial. As part of the injury and illness prevention program, the investigation procedure should detail:

  • Who should conduct and participate in the investigation.
  • Incidents to be investigated.
  • Information to be collected.
  • Identification of causal factors (often referred to as root causes).
  • Determination of corrective actions.
  • Tracking completion of corrective actions.

Determining Causal Factors / Root Causes
The purpose of this fact-finding is to determine all of the contributing factors as to why the incident occurred. Statements such as “worker was careless” or “employee did not follow safety procedures” don’t get at the root cause of the incident. To avoid these incomplete and misleading conclusions in your investigative process, continue to ask why as in “Why did the employee not follow safety procedures?” Contributing factors may involve equipment, environment, people and management. Questions that help reveal these may include:

  • Was a hazardous condition a contributing factor? (defects in equipment/tools/materials, condition recognized, equipment inspections, correct equipment used or available, substitute equipment used, design or quality of equipment)
  • Was the location of equipment/materials/worker(s) a contributing factor? (employee supposed to be there, sufficient workspace, environmental conditions)
  • Was the job procedure a contributing factor? (written or known procedures, ability to perform the job, difficult tasks within the job, anything encouraging deviation from job procedures such as incentives or speed of completion)
  • Was lack of personal protective equipment or emergency equipment a contributing factor? (PPE specified for job/task, adequacy of PPE, whether PPE used at all or correctly, emergency equipment specified, available, properly used, function as intended)
  • Was a management system defect a contributing factor? (failure of supervisor to detect or report hazardous condition or deviation from job procedure, supervisor accountability understood, supervisor or worker adequately trained, failure to initiate corrective action)

At this point, once you’ve gathered information and interviewed the involved worker and any witnesses, you can prepare the investigation report itself and formulate corrective actions. Each corrective action listed should have a person assigned with ultimate responsibility for the action, a completion date set and a place to mark completion of the item.

For additional information on the investigation process, see the NSC document in its entirety at http://www.nsc.org/JSEWorkplaceDocuments/How-To-Conduct-An-Incident-Investigation.PDF

Should you require additional assistance with incident investigation training in your workplace, please contact Gary Smith, CRM, at (517) 338-3367 or gary.smith@yorkrsg.com.

Resources:

  1. National Safety Council Guidance Document: http://www.nsc.org/JSEWorkplaceDocuments/How-To-Conduct-An-Incident-Investigation. (2014)
  2. OSHA Incident Investigation – A Guide for Employers: https://www.osha.gov/dte/IncInvGuide4Empl_Dec2015.pdf
  3. Accident/Incident Investigation Training (PowerPoint): http://www.lni.wa.gov/SAFETY/TRAININGPREVENTION/ONLINE/courseinfo.asp?P_ID=145

 

Posted in 2017, SEPTEMBER 2017 | Comments Off on Incident Investigation “How-To”

Heat Stress Prevention

WRITTEN BY GARY SMITH, APARTMENT BUILDING MANAGEMENT WORKERS  COMPENSATION SELF INSURED FUND

While heat related fatalities are below the 10-year average, they are again on the rise. In 2015, 45 people died as a result of extreme heat, up dramatically from a total of 20 in 2014.

Many people are exposed to heat on the job, outdoors or in hot indoor environments. Operations involving high air temperatures, high humidity, direct physical contact with hot objects, or strenuous physical activities have a high potential for causing heat-related illness. Outdoor operations conducted in hot weather and direct sun, such as landscaping, also increase the risk of heat-related illness in exposed workers.

Most heat-related health problems can be prevented, or the risk of developing them can be reduced. For work in hot environments, refer to the information below.

Engineering Controls
The best way to prevent heat-related illness is to make the work environment cooler. A variety of engineering controls can reduce workers’ exposure to heat:

  • Air conditioning.
  • Increased general ventilation.
  • Cooling fans.
  • Local exhaust ventilation at points of high heat production or moisture.
  • Reflective shields to redirect radiant heat.

Work Practices
Employers should have an emergency plan in place that specifies what to do if a worker has signs of heat-related illness, and ensures that medical services are available if needed.

  • Employers should take steps that help workers become acclimatized (gradually build up exposure to heat), especially workers who are new to working in the heat or have been away from work for a week or more. Gradually increase workloads and allow more frequent breaks during the first week of work.
  • Workers must have adequate potable (safe for drinking) water close to the work area, and should drink small amounts frequently.
  • Rather than being exposed to heat for extended periods of time, workers should, wherever possible, be permitted to distribute the workload evenly over the day and incorporate work/rest cycles.
  • If possible, physical demands should be reduced during hot weather, or heavier work scheduled for cooler times of the day.
  • Rotating job functions among workers can help minimize overexertion and heat exposure.
  • Workers should watch out for each other for symptoms of heat-related illness and administer appropriate first aid to anyone who is developing a heat-related illness.

Personal Protective Equipment
Workers should be aware that use of certain personal protective equipment (e.g., certain types of respirators and impermeable clothing) can increase the risk of heat-related illness.

In some situations, special cooling devices, such as cooling bandanas, hats, and other personal protective equipment can protect workers in hot environments.

Training
Workers and supervisors should be trained about the hazards of heat exposure and their prevention. Topics should include:

  • Risk factors for heat-related illness.
  • Different types of heat-related illness, including how to recognize common signs and symptoms.
  • Heat-related illness prevention procedures.
  • Importance of drinking small quantities of water often.
  • Importance of acclimatization, how it is developed, and how your worksite procedures address it.
  • Importance of immediately reporting signs or symptoms of heat-related illness to the supervisor.
  • Procedures for responding to possible heat-related illness.
  • Procedures to follow when contacting emergency medical services.
  • Procedures to ensure that clear and precise directions to the work site will be provided to emergency medical services.

For more information about preventing heat related injuries, visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s free resource page, Extreme Heat and Your Health, at www.cdc.gov/extremeheat/materials.html.

Should you require additional assistance with preventing heat related injuries in your workplace, please contact Gary Smith, CRM, at (517) 338-3367 or gary.smith@yorkrsg.com.

Resources:

 

Posted in 2017, AUGUST 2017 | Comments Off on Heat Stress Prevention