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Highlighting OSHA’s Stance on Ergonomics

October 24, 2019 By: Bill deMink

Ergonomics weren’t a primary concern in American industries until a couple of decades ago when the real effects of work-related injuries started to become clear. Since then, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has continued to focus on the different ways to provide employees across every industry with a more ergonomic workplace. Below, you can learn more about OSHA’s stance.

Musculoskeletal Disorders in the Workplace

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) cites that musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) were responsible for 33% of all the worker injury and illness cases reported in 2013. What’s more, MSDs are also one of the most frequently reported causes of lost work time, which has a tremendous effect not only on the employee missing work but also on the employer. OSHA’s stance on ergonomics focuses a great deal on the prevention of work-related MSDs for this reason.

Steps for Implementing Ergonomic Processes

OSHA has also lined out a series of steps that employers can take to implement ergonomic processes in their companies. These include:

  • Providing management support
  • Involving workers in the ergonomic approach
  • Providing ample training on ergonomics
  • Identifying any existing problems that exist in the workplace
  • Encouraging early reporting of MSD symptoms
  • Implementing solutions to control potential hazards
  • And regularly evaluating progress.

Each of these steps means something slightly different for every industry, but every workplace should implement them.

Three Types of Preventative Controls

To reduce MSDs in the workplace, OSHA has also created three different control categories that can help employers provide a more ergonomic —and therefore safer—working environment. These include:

  • Engineering Controls – These controls physically change the workplace to reduce hazards. They include redesigning tools, repositioning workspace heights, and even using devices to lift heavy objects to reduce the amount of exertion required of employees. For example, replacing standard casters with ergonomic casters that lessen initial push force is an engineering control.
  • Administrative or Work Practice Controls – These types of controls help to establish and reinforce processes that reduce injury. For example, requiring two people to lift or move heavy loads rather than just one. Or, rotating workers’ positions to avoid injuries from repetitive motions as well as providing training on the proper use of power tools.
  • Personal Protective Equipment – Finally, PPEs are crucial (and required by OSHA in many cases) for reducing injury. Hardhats and safety glasses are common examples, but protective equipment can also include padding that helps to minimize contact with any surfaces that are sharp or that vibrate, and clothing designed to protect employees from the elements.

To learn more about the link between ergonomics and musculoskeletal disorders, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) provides excellent resources on the topic.

An ergonomic workplace benefits everyone. Though it may require a bit of initial investment on the employer’s part, the reduction in injuries and an increase in productivity will quickly help those employers see a fantastic return. What’s more, when there are fewer injury claims, companies in any industry are sure to see a reduction in their workers’ compensation insurance premiums, too. 

 

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