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Archive for the ‘Musculoskeletal’ Category


Frances Pisano, CEO and founder of Pisano & Associations LLC (the parent company of The ERGOLAB at Ergonomic Edge) was published in the most recent version of the Design-Build Institute of America‘s (DBIA) monthly publication, Design Build DATELINE.  Design-Build is a membership organization bringing together thousands of organizations and individuals representing architects, engineers, public and private owners, general and specialty contractors, manufacturer and suppliers, students, college and university faculty, legal and finance professionals and many more. 

Frances was asked to share her point-of-view on Hospital Ergonomics, the article is titled “Hospital Design; Ergonomics Should Be The Next Big Trend” – check it out!

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Do you know where your employees are?

Ask any business owner or executive about the impacts of Healthcare costs on their business and you will get an EARFUL.  Healthcare accounts for 15.4% of payroll costs…and that percentage is increasing.  Today’s business enterprise spends significant time and resource energy on the aggressive management of that number.  Very little if any savings will come from that number (unless REAL healthcare reform happens; don’t hold your breath for it)…today the exercise is about holding the line.   Just keep treading water.

An unexplored SAVINGS opportunity does exist; it’s not as sexy or polarizing as healthcare costs BUT it can drive very real cost savings.  

Did you know that the total cost of unplanned employee work absences – not vacation or personal time – represents 9.2% of the average company’s payroll expense? (Source – Marsh Mercer 2008 online survey http://www.kronos.com/AbsenceAnonymous/)

Why?

Absences impact your business in three ways:

  • Direct costs for the benefits or wages paid to employees while absent,
  • Indirect costs for lost productivity or the replacement worker expenses to “cover”
    absences and minimize loss of productivity, and
  • Administrative expenses, whether due to internal staffing and overhead, or to vendor
    services.

The impact on Productivity is even more alarming:

Absenteeism or “Incidental unplanned absences” result in the highest net loss of productivity per day (i.e., missed or postponed work not being covered by others): 21%versus 15% for planned absences and 17% for extended absences.

Absenteeism is a MANAGEABLE cost driver and a sound Ergonomics strategy can help.

How?

Trapped in that 9.2% number are unreported employee pain and discomfort issues.    In many cases, ERGONOMIC workplace issues are the cause of this pain and discomfort.  A recent study from Spain estimates that > 6.4 million people take an unplanned absence each week citing muscular-skeletal problems as the reason.  Out of these, 40.9 per cent of the work force experiencing lower back pain, 40 per cent with neck pain, and 22.9 per cent with upper back pain.

Poor environmental and task design within the work environment drives this pain and discomfort.   ERGONOMICS can help. 

Do you have an in-house program that documents absenteeism drivers?   Probably not.   Our ERGOLAB team works with business leadership to build a proactive approach to absenteeism through;

  • Employee pain and discomfort surveying,
  • Task assessment and redesign consulting and
  • Ergonomics education and training

Interested ?  We’d love to hear from you – fpisano@ergonomicedge.com or 401 529 8398

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There is an old carpenter’s axiom, ‘measure twice, cut once’.  The lesson? Careful, informed planning is essential to ensure a positive outcome.  Hurry to complete a project, and you do so at your peril. A lot of wasted wood cut just a skosh too short.  

Ideally, Ergonomics should play a central role in the design and build out of any building where people will work.  Understanding the needs and limitations of the human body at rest and in movement should inform the work of architects, designers and builders.   Have you ever worked in a business environment where the building structure, layout, space allocation for job tasks, movement & pass-through, while up to all current day building codes, seems to interfere or impede productivity?   The workspace allocated per employee in office environments is often driven by cost issues (cost per sq foot), rather than building an understanding of the tasks employees would be asked to perform….THEN DESIGN TO MEET THOSE NEEDS.   Or, perhaps the business, like most, have gone through significant expansion in their use of technology. New tools are forced into existing environments; this reality introduces risk factors into the workplace.  Or, the employer needs to support as many workstations in an area as possible, with little or no regard for human factors and ergonomic realities.  (think CALL CENTER – have you ever walked through a large call center – YIKES – an MSD factory). 

A growing part of our ERGOLAB practice is consulting within a hospital environment.  Nursing injuries are on the rise. OSHA accident and injury data has identified nursing as one of the most dangerous professions in the US.   Why?  THE PERFECT STORM OF FACTORS; 

  • HEAVY LIFTING – On average, a nurse  lifts 1.6 TONS of human body weight every shift.  Injuries from heavy lifting leave 50% or more working in chronic pain
    or at least 12% leaving the profession, many with permanent disabling injuries.  The rate of Musculoskeletal Disorders or MSDs in healthcare workers exceeds that of workers in construction, mining and manufacturing.
  • FATIGUE – Nurses walk 1/3 of every shift due to poorly designed floor layouts and inadequate storage at the point of care. A nurse walks more than 6  miles per shift.
  • TECHNOLOGY – New technologies have transformed healthcare; unfortunately, many of the nation’s hospitals were built before the invention of computers. Tools and technology is crammed into every nook and cranny on patient care floors.  Nurses spend HOURS at computer workstations that are poorly designed, forcing out of neutral body postures and increasing the risk of MSDs. 
  • EMPLOYEE SAFETY NOT A PRIORITY – Present day hospital culture is about PATIENT SAFETY concerns and conversations; employee safety is a distant second.   The typical hospital will have a Patient Safety Officer, with enterprise level responsibilities and resources. That same hospital will relegate Employee Safety responsibilities to any number of ‘owners’ at the middle management level. 
  • MORE WITH LESS – Financial challenges resulted in nursing layoffs – nurses are asked to do more…..much more….with less.  40 % of nurses today work in excess of 12 hours
    per shift. Longer hours, more shifts, less down time.  

Intelligent hospital design, leveraging human factor and ergonomics expertise would alleviate MANY of the factors listed above.  Lifting tools and technologies exist that could eliminate injuries due to heavy lifting.  Floor plan design must evolve to eliminate unnecessary walking that contributes to fatigue, then injury.  Technology can be better integrated at the point of care, with ergonomic solutions to minimize MSD risk.   Any design must have adaptable, changeable and flexible enough to meet accommodate changes in technology. 

The good news….a VERY real opportunity exists in the coming decade to address hospital design issues and create the care center of the future.  The healthcare industry is experiencing a construction boom: 

  • Hospital construction spending is forecasted at $36.8 billion by 2011 with expected annual increases year to year (source – Center for Medicare & Medicaid Service)
  • 58% of existing hospitals plan to add beds in the next few years to accommodate aging baby boomer populations (source – Nurse Executive Center – CNO Survey)

Ergonomics must be one of the guiding principles in future hospital design.   Let’s not ‘assume’ that Ergonomics is central to the design methodology….DEMAND IT.  Make sure the development teams have MEASURED TWICE…before they finalize design.  The costs of business as usual are too high.

Have something to say on this topic?  Please add your comments. 

If you’d like to discuss our consulting services in this area, please contact Frances Pisano at 401-529-8398 or fpisano@pisanoassociates.com

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Our ERGOLAB team spends a lot of time working in office environments; the day man met PC was a glorious one for workplace accountability – nothing like a digital trail to keep things on the up and up….not so great for the human body.  Why?  As work tasks became more and more automated, our work days became more sedentary. 

Our body was not designed to sit for 8 hours a day; we’re all familiar with the Ergonomics axiom, “the best body posture (position) is the NEXT body posture (position).  Our bodies were designed to hunting, gathering, foraging for food, and sometimes running away VERY quickly when WE became the potential ‘food’ (…and NO, battling the crowds at your local farmer’s market does not qualify as ‘foraging’).   We need movement, we need a variety of position and posture to maintain good body health and flexibility. 

In the past, corporate Health & Safety leadership often overlooked the needs and risks within their office environments; cubicle dwellers don’t use pneumatic equipment, drive a forktruck or work with hazardous materials. Accidents and injuries occurred in other places in the enterprise, except the occasional slip, trip or fall, the office harbored few (or so they thought) risks.  Now, with 20+ years of data  and learning behind us, we understand the very real and very expensive risks associated with unmanaged office ergonomics.  With the average cost of ONE musculoskeletal disorder averaging $25,000 in direct costs and 5 to 8 times that number in indirect costs…a passive approach to office ergonomics is NOT good business. 

Still…old myths and misconceptions in Office Ergonomics die hard. 

Misconception #1

The right chair will solve ALL your problems.  WRONG!   A personal pet peeve and a myth that must DIE (and remember, we SELL ergonomic chairs and tools at www.ergonomicedge.com ).  The office chair, while very important, is one element within an INTEGRATED Ergonomic solution.  Office system manufacturers spend millions to reinforce the belief that a chair (more importantly, their chair) is the answer.  There is no magic chair. Or for that matter keyboard tray, mouse, docking station or document holder.  Products are tools our ERGOLAB Ergonomists use, case by case, client by client, to build an Ergonomic solution, properly designed, personally adjusted, with adequate employee education and product training (you’d be amazed how many companies have NO IDEA how their existing chairs adjust…).  At ERGOLAB, we lead with Ergonomic guidance first…products are a very very distant second.  

Misconception #2

Repetitive Motion is the #1 cause of ergonomic injury.   WRONG!    Yes, repetitive ‘Out-of-Neutral’ motions can and do cause injuries. An example would be anyone who works on spreadsheets for long periods of their day; these folks do A LOT of cutting and pasting within the spreadsheets.  Over the long term, overuse can lead to pain, discomfort and injury.   What surprises most corporate Health & Safety Managers, is that STATIC  “Out-of-Neutral” body postures cause far more injuries….we are a generation of leaners and reachers.   Sitting in a chair for hours at a stretch invites poor postures; next time you are in a lengthy meeting, check out the body positions of everyone around you…..leaning, slouching, etc.  All positions that put extreme stress and pressure on our bodies.   

This underscores the value of careful, thoughtful office design; the cubicle footprint is often driven by ECONOMIC imperatives, rather than ERGONOMIC imperatives.  Think  adjustability of worksurfaces, up/down, in/out.  Make sure all employee tools fall within the REACH ENVELOPE…don’t ask an employee to reach and lean to talk on the phone or lean forward to view a monitor.    

Misconception #3

Office Ergonomics is a ‘hard sell’ in these tough economic times.   WRONG!   Now is precisely the time to integrate Office Ergonomics into your Health & Safety plans for your next fiscal year.  Let’s face it, everyone is working with reduced headcount. This means your current work staff needs to do more…..MUCH MORE….with less.  You need these employees to stay healthy and productive.  Beyond this, Worker’s Compensation costs are soaring…a proactive Ergonomics approach is about preempting injury. Fewer injuries, fewer claims, lower PREMIUMS.   In tough economic times, you can’t afford NOT to invest in Office Ergonomics. 

Misconception #4

Every employee needs the same Ergonomic tools.  WRONG!      Ergonomic solutions are personal; an employees height and body size, health conditions, work functions and personal habits all contribute to and inform an Ergonomic solution.   A good starting place for 90% of the employee population is an adjustable Ergonomic chair and quality adjustable keyboard – but REMEMBER – the workstation MUST be designed with the employee’s idiosyncratic needs in mind. As before, an Ergonomic solution. There is no one size fits all.

 Need some guidance in creating and implementing an Ergonomics program for your business?   Give us a call – 401-527-7047, or email me at cdavis@ergonomicedge.com.

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Well….the cat is out of the bag.  All this time, American business has been worried about a new attempt by OSHA to create an Ergonomic specific regulation.  Business organizations like the US Chamber of Commerce and others were lining up resources for another fight.  Well folks….it looks like the ‘war’ was won without a single shot.   Hidden in plain sight, is all the regulatory muscle OSHA needs; the general duty clause.

WHAT?  Yes it’s true. During an April 7th web chat, Deputy Assistant Secretary Jordan Barab stressed that OSHA’s enforcement of ergonomic issues is a key strategic component, and will increase, noting that the general duty clause will be used to cite ergonomic violations.   THE GENERAL DUTY CLAUSE.  It’s not sexy or flashy….but this approach and regulation has teeth.  

The General Duty Clause of the United States Occupational Safety and Health Act (Federal OSHA) states:

29 U.S.C. § 654, 5(a)1: Each employer shall furnish to each of his employees employment and a place of employment which are free from recognized hazards that are causing or are likely to cause death or serious physical harm to his employees.”

29 U.S.C. § 654, 5(a)2: Each employer shall comply with occupational safety and health standards promulgated under this act.

29 U.S.C. § 654, 5(b): Each employee shall comply with occupational safety and health standards and all rules, regulations, and orders issued pursuant to this Act which are applicable to his own actions and conduct.

Couple the above general duty clause with the new column in the OSHA 300 log capturing Musculoskeletal Disorders in the workplace, and you can begin to see why an Ergonomic specific regulation might not be necessary!

Assistant Secretary for OSHA Dr. David Michaels commented that,

OSHA’s field staff will be looking for ergonomic hazards in their inspections and we will be providing them with the support and back-up they need to enforce under the general duty clause. In addition, we will be examining employer logs to see if MSDs are accurately reported,” illustrating the increased emphasis on recordkeeping logs, during OSHA inspections. Michaels stated that OSHA plans to “take a hard look” at employer policies that discourage injury reporting.

You have to give OSHA leadership their ‘props’…the approach is an intelligent, common-sense approach.  No big expensive fight.  Apply the regs that are there….end of story.  

What are your thoughts on OSHA’s new tact????  Agree or disagree??

If you’d like to discuss, feel free to email me at cdavis@ergonomicedge.com or 401.527.7047.

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I was in a meeting with a new client last week.  “Linda” (not her real name), is the Director of Environmental Health & Safety for a growing biotech firm.   Our firm has been brought in to address a growing number of Repetitive Strain Injuries in the company’s lab facilities.  “Linda” shared her frustrations with the company’s past approach to Repetitive Motion injuries;

“We wait until something bad happens, until it’s too late to avoid injury and the costs associated with the injury. We practice Whack-a-Mole Ergonomics.  When an employee complains of pain…WHACK…only then can I get them support.   Another issue in a different part of the company, WHACK…again, band-aid the issue with a product or even bring in an Ergonomist to take a closer look at that employees issues.  We spend all our time WHACKING and reacting; we need to get ahead of the issues.” 

Linda’s Whack-a-Mole analogy describes the reality in most companies; expertise and instruction is brought in after pain &/or injury.  When the average direct cost of a Musculoskeletal injury is $25,000 (that excludes indirect costs that average 4 x that number based on OSHA data) – the cost of Whack-a-Mole Ergonomics can add up quickly.  A significant part of our Ergonomic practice is working with client’s to build a PROACTIVE Ergonomics program within their company.  Following is an Action Plan you can use today, to take control of Ergonomic issues in your company, and leave the Whack-a-Mole approach behind.  For a deeper discussion on how to implement this program you can email me at cdavis@ergonomicedge.com.

Proactive Approach to ERGONOMICS:

Action 1.0

Build a business case on the value of the PROACTIVE approach to Ergonomics.  Leverage the resources that are available from OSHA, NIOSH, National Bureau of Labor & Statistics and academia – Cornell, UCLA and others.  Using your company’s historical OSHA recordable data; build an air-tight case for why the proactive approach is better business. Focus on the bottom line impact.

Action 2.0

With your business case in hand – pitch Executive leadership and secure commitment to a long-term Ergonomic program.

Action 3.0

Ensure Ergonomics is integrated into your fiscal planning cycle; the program must be integrated into your Environmental Health & Safety strategy. The EHS community may also need to be sold on the approach; share your business case. 

Action 4.0

Identify Ergonomic consulting resource for support of activity (in most cases companies do not have resident expertise).  Potential partner should have deep experience in task assessment and redesign across all company environments (Manufacturing, Material Handling, Warehousing, Office, Laboratory, Field etc). In addition, review firm’s methodology, ensure actions measurable (as you will be asked to demonstrate program value at some point – be ready for this – put onus on consultant/partner). Talk with current and past clients. 

Action 5.0 – Getting Started

5.1 – Build a Communication Plan around the launch and ongoing merchandising of your Ergonomic program. Included in this plan – Introduction to Ergonomics training for all employees (baseline understanding and value of Ergonomics), Company Champions Program – identify internal Ergonomic program Champions by functional area.

5.2 – Launch program with company-wide Pain & Discomfort Survey. It’s purpose – isolate work environments, tasks and employee categories with injury markers. Outcome – map out high/medium/low risk tasks – permits company to prioritize and align investments

5.3 – Isolate high risk tasks for assessment & redesign – launch Ergonomics work…

Building support and positive momentum is central to getting in front of Ergonomic issues.  If you have any questions, we’re here to help!

Some valuable links to assist you in building your Ergonomics business case:

Puget Sound Human Factors & Ergonomics Society Chapter Cost Benefit Analysis Calculator  – http://bit.ly/PugetHFESCalc

Cornell Ergonomics ROI Calculator – http://bit.ly/CornellROI

OSHA eTools – Computer Workstations – http://bit.ly/OSHAeTools

NIOSH – http://bit.ly/NIOSHErgo

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At ERGOLAB, we spend a lot of time with prospective clients, assisting them in building a business case for why Ergonomics must be included in their company’s  Health & Safety programs for the coming year.  The pitch takes data;  hard proof that Ergonomics delivers measurable, bottom line impact to an enterprise.  We include findings from our completed programs, as well as data from the Public sector resources; OSHA, NIOSH and academia.  Of these outside resources, no report is more meaningful and valuable than the Workplace Safety Index.    

For 10 years, Liberty Mutual, in partnership with the US Bureau of Labor & Statistics and the National Academy of Social Insurance have tracked the leading causes of workplace injury and the aggregated costs associated with those injuries.  The report, known as the 2009 Liberty Mutual Workplace Safety Index or WSI, was made available this week. This year’s report captures injury data from calendar year 2007. The report deep dives the Top 10 injury categories, as these injuries are responsible for just over 86% of all costs associated with workplace injury.    

TOP 10 – Category / Cost / % of total    

  1. Overexertion – Injuries caused from  lifting, pushing, pulling, holding, or carrying a heavy object  – $12.7B, 24%
  2. Fall on same level – $7.7B, 14.6%
  3. Fall to lower level – $6.2B, 11%
  4. Bodily reaction – injuries from slips or trips without falling – $5.4B, 11.2%
  5. Struck by object – $4.7B, 9%
  6. Highway incident – $2.5B, 4.7%
  7. Caught In/ Compressed By – $2.1B, 3.9%
  8. Repetitive Motion – $2.0B, 3.8%
  9. Struck Against Object – $2.0B, 3.8%
  10. Assaults or Violent Acts – $0.6B, 1.1%

    

 What do these numbers tell us?    

ERGONOMICS IS MAKING AN IMPACT.    

Over the 10 year span of the research, Repetitive Motion injuries like carpal tunnel and tendonitis have declined by over 35%.  Proactive Ergonomic strategies, like task assessment and redesign, are making an impact.  In particular, the work done in improving working conditions in OFFICE ENVIRONMENTS has delivered results.  Office technology like computers, keyboards, and computer mice are more ergonomically designed, informed by years of Human Factors & Ergonomics research.  The office environment is better equipped to support the SEATED human body for longer periods of time; as an example, office chair design has leaped forward, providing improved support and adjustability.  Improvements in other tools like keyboards trays, task lighting and adjustable worksurfaces ensure neutral posture and reduce/eliminate extensions beyond the reach envelope.      

ROOM FOR IMPROVEMENT – ERGONOMICS CAN DO MORE    

OVEREXERTION driven injuries, from lifting, pushing, pulling an object have dropped by 5.7% over the ten year span of the study, some improvement, however more work needs to be done.  The human body is being asked to perform physical tasks BEYOND its abilities.  The bottom line, these work tasks must be identified, assessed and redesigned.     

In an earlier blog post we discussed the impact Patient Handling is having on Nursing / Healthcare Provider Safety.  Everyday, the American nurse lifts an average of 1.5 tons of weight.  The result; injury and lost productivity.  This is one example of many existing in US business today.  Ergonomic task assessment and redesign is essential; the cost to the US economy is staggering; $24B in direct costs.      

COSTS CONTINUE TO RISE.

Even as the number and severity of workplace injuries decline (or stay flat). Costs continue to increase.  Over the ten year span of the study (1998 to 2007), costs  increased between 5.4% to 5.8%  year to year on average.   Not surprising, as healthcare costs everywhere are spiralling out of control.  This cost escalation only reinforces the need to continue to focus on injury reduction and elimination.  Of course, Ergonomics can and will play a role in this activity.       

Are there work tasks within your business that you’d like to discuss?  We’re here to help.    

For a closer look at the WSI, use the following link – http://bit.ly/8513J9    

 

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It’s the year 2020 and you’re in the hospital for a minor elective procedure that requires an overnight stay. Lying in your bed, you try to call for a nurse. You send your Tweet to the nurses desk. No nurse. You Tweet again, and again, and again. Where is the nurse???? The nurse never comes, because there are no nurses.

A bit farfetched, but the American health system has a problem brewing that has nothing to do with the current healthcare reform legislation. According to Marla Salmon, Dean of the University of Washington School Of Nursing;

“We’re actually at a crisis point in terms of the shortage of nurses,” (Source – http://bit.ly/81QGZs)

The American hospital is the lowest common denominator of critical and acute-care. A 24/7/365 operation, the hospital is the convergence point for all issues related to healthcare; costs, insurance (or lack there-of), quality of care, quality of equipment. Nurses make up over 60% of the average hospital’s staff; in any great hospital, nurses are the backbone of the organization and serve as the ‘face’ of the hospital to the patient. It is the nurse, providing minute-to-minute care that most directly impacts a patient’s perceptions of their hospital experience and the overall quality, real or perceived, of patient care. Given the nurses importance in the hospital community, following is a very alarming statistic:

In 2008, 100,000 nursing jobs were left open in the United States; this number is expected to surpass 1,000,000 by the year 2023. (Washington: Health Resources and Services Administration)

WHY?

 No one to teach – nursing schools losing educators

 Young people not selecting nursing as a career path

 50% of first year nurses leave the profession

 33% of senior nurses plan on leaving early due to burn-out, physical issues related to on-the-job demands (source: AMN Healthcare, survey of 1,830 nurses age 45-60)

 

NURSING IS A DANGEROUS PROFESSION or “He Ain’t Heavy, He’s my Patient”

Senior nurses are leaving the profession in droves due to the PHYSICAL CHALLENGES of patient care. Did you know Nursing and other ‘patient handling’ intensive healthcare roles have one of the highest incidences of work-related back problems of all occupations? Understandable when you hear the cumulative weight lifted by a nurse in one typical 8-hour shift is equal to 1.8 tons. TONS!

Patient handling is the #1 cause of Musculoskeletal Disorders among nurses.

The incidence rates continue to climb, and the direct and indirect costs associated with back injuries for nurses is $20 billion annually. Over 750,000 work days are lost annually as a result of back injuries in nursing, with an estimated 40,000 nurses reporting illnesses from back pain each year.

WHAT ARE THE HOSPITALS DOING ABOUT THIS?

With this resource crisis looming, hospital administrators are scrambling to position their hospital or health network as the ‘employer of choice’ for nurses. Nurses are recruited  like NFL free agents; signing bonuses, car allowances, flexible schedules, and front-loaded tuition reimbursements. In addition, Hospitals are stepping up efforts to keep senior nursing staff. Spa visits, entertainment nights, recognition events; yet still the nursing resource gap continues to widen.

ERGOLAB’S Point-of-View:

The healthcare industry must shift their thinking, shift dollars into programs that drive TRUE change and improvement, not just cosmetic changes.

ERGONOMIC PROGRAMS MAKE A DIFFERENCE

Enlightened hospital organizations are leading the way, implementing aggressive ERGONOMIC programs that drive positive change and make them the “Hospital Employer of Choice” among healthcare workers of all categories; nurses – seasoned and entry-level, aides and orderlies, technicians and other categories. The ERGOLAB team of Ergonomicsts works with hospitals to build comprehensive Ergonomic programs focusing on Patient Handling and Worker Safety. These programs are proven to drive down on-the-job injuries, increasing job satisfaction and staffer retention.

Our programs focus on (4) areas; Cultural Change, Training, Tools, and Environmental Re-Design. The most important changes are CULTURAL.   Hospital leadership must elevate EMPLOYEE SAFETY and well-being to the same level of importance as Patient Safety. Research shows that Employee Safety and Patient Safety are DIRECTLY connected. A safe and healthy Employee positively impacts the Patient.

At present, 65% of hospitals have some type of Safe Patient Handling program in place; program efficacy is mixed. Leading the way is the work of the VA Hospital networks; their Safe Patient Handling Programs is serving as the model for the private sector.  For more information, follow this link to an article detailing the VA’s work and private sector programs under development –  http://bit.ly/7sNPXx.  

Ergonomics is not the sole answer to our country’s nursing shortage; it must be part of a hospital’s strategy to drive nurse retention,  increase PRODUCTIVE days and reduce workers compensation costs.  Cost savings from Ergonomics could be redirected into additonal recruiting and retention programs.  Ergonomics can help.

 

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The primary objective of American business is profit.  Profit determines winners and losers.   Whoever makes the most money, WINS.   (note – I believe in the purity of the profit imperative….to quote Gordon Gekko from the film Wall Street; “Greed is good. Greed works”   Greed employs  people, builds nations, is the catalyst for innovation.)

That’s why I cannot get my head around why American business is so against a closer look at workplace injuries like Cumulative Trauma Disorders, Musculoskeletal Disorders and Repetitive Strain Injuries.  The data is clear; the costs associated with these injuries are significant, i.e. they are a drain on company resources…a drain on PROFITS.  The costs to proactively address injury driven by poor Ergonomic design are lower than the reactive costs of worker injury; workers compensation, healthcare treatment etc. 

So..simple  math.  Embrace a proactive Ergonomic strategy; INCREASE company profits. 

Still, American business hesitates.  

Glenn Spencer, executive director of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s Workforce Freedom Initiative, said Solis so far has been willing to listen to some of his group’s concerns. But he worries most about the possibility that Labor officials will try to revive costly ergonomics rules. Such rules would force businesses to redesign work spaces to protect employees from repetitive stress injuries.   (Source – http://abcnews.go.com/Business/wirestory?id=9460816&page=3)

A nudge is necessary; that nudge coming from Labor Secretary Hilda Solis.  After 1 year in her cabinet position, Secretary Solis continues to turn up the heat on business.    In her words,

there’s a new sheriff in town.

In 12 months, Secretary Solis has done more to improve workplace safety, than the former administration accomplished in 8 years.   More inspectors, penalties with teeth and over 90 planned regulatory enhancements.  Business needed a wake-up call; mission accomplished.  

Labor Secretary Solis’ report card for 2009?   A+++++++++++++++++++++++++++

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With 2009 in the rearview mirror, my thoughts turn to the promise of 2010. A New Year is like newly fallen snow; gorgeous, pristine, undefiled, PERFECT.  Full of promise and potential; 2010 awaits each of us…what do you plan on doing this year?  My guess is that health, family, love, and work are all high on the list; more this (e.g., exercise), less that (e.g., body fat).  Our ERGOLAB team would like to offer up some resolution suggestions specific to your ERGONOMIC well-being in 2010.   Embracing our suggestions will improve your health and make you a  better partner, parent, friend, or employee.

Ergonomic Resolution #1:

Request an ERGONOMIC EVALUATION from my employer.  Musculoskeletal Disorders (or MSD’s) like carpal tunnel or tendonitis, can be the result of the cumulative trauma that comes from long-term use of a badly designed home or office workstation.  Secure a baseline assessment from a qualified Ergonomist; those back and head aches that you suffered from in 2009 could be eradicated by some simple workstation adjustments. 

Ergonomic Resolution #2:

Know the risks!  Increase your own knowledge and understanding of Ergonomic risk factors.  In the US, OSHA (the Occupational Safety and Health Adminstration) invests millions of your tax dollars in building ‘how-to’ guides on Ergonomics research and education. Take advantage of these free tools.  Many times, a low or no-cost improvement will drive huge benefit to you and your long-term health.  Here is a link to OSHA’s guidance and quick tips on computer workstation design; http://www.osha.gov/SLTC/etools/computerworkstations/index.html.

Ergonomic Resolution #3:

EXERCISE, EXERCISE, EXERCISE.  Regular exercise increases the body’s resistance to injury from bad Ergonomic design.  A strong body is more resilient; increase your core body strength to improve body posture.  This resolution isn’t about fitting into that size 4 black dress; strength training and regular stretching is the best prescription for good Ergonomic health.

Ergonomic Resolution #4:

Ok, we’re going to say it…buy a GREAT truly Ergonomic office chair.  Yes, we sell chairs at our Ergonomic Edge web site (www.ergonomicedge.com)  Yes, this recommendation might seem self-serving.  HOWEVER…research tells us that American spend an average of  8+ hours a day sitting at a desk.  You spend as much time in your chair as you do your bed at night.   Your office chair matters.    If you can’t afford a quality Ergonomic office chair new, scour the after-market for a great brand used.

What to look for in a quality Ergonomic Office Chair:

– ADJUSTABILITY.  No chair alone is Ergonomic.   The ability to adjust to you, your body and tasks you are asking your body to perform is what makes a chair ERGONOMIC.   The chair should provide on-the-fly adjustment in the armrests (up and down, in and out), seat pan (in and out, up and down), seat height (up and down), lumbar region (can be manual or automatic).  What is most important; the chair must get you to a neutral posture for the task at hand; computing, gaming, talking on the phone etc. 

– Quality Construction.  The selected manufacturer should provide a comprehensive warranty on all elements on the chair, particularly the adjustment mechanism. Our favorite chair manufacturer, Humanscale, offers a 15 year warranty on their adjustment mechanisms.  We have clients who have used the same chair for years.

Happy New Year to one and all.  The ERGOLAB team wishes all of you the best in 2010.  We resolve to keep sharing our ideas and Ergonomic guidance in 2010; we look forward to your questions and comments in the coming year. 

Good Health!

ERGOLAB team,

Frances, Cyndi, and Rich….

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