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Archive for the ‘OSHA’ Category


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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The ERGOLAB practice is a part of Pisano & Associates LLC, an Environmental Health & Safety consulting firm headquartered in Pawtucket RI.  A growing part of our Health & Safety consulting work is in support of healthcare providers; hospitals, nursing homes and medical practices.  Hospitals in particular, are under pressure to drive costs down (do more with less), while ensuring 100% quality at the point of patient care.  An often overlooked aspect in this equation, is the role EMPLOYEE SAFETY plays in supporting or enabling patient safety. Healthy employees are more productive, better focused and less prone to mistakes or mental errors. A healthy hospital employee CONTRIBUTES directly to a safe patient experience.

Our mission at Pisano & Associates / ERGOLAB, is to work with clients to assess the current state of employee safety, identify and eliminate risk factors through Health, Safety and Ergonomics programs. Following is a case study of some recent work; our Safety and Ergonomics teams partnered in the ‘deep dive’ analysis of historical OSHA recordable data across a large hospital ownership group.  The objective?  Identify the all risks factors and build a plan to build a “best-in-class’ safety culture. This initiative was the first step on that journey.

Challenge:

As the largest industry in 2009, health care provided over 16 million jobs. Combining medical technology and the human touch, the health care industry administers care around the clock, responding to the needs of millions of people—from newborns to the critically ill.

 In 2006 (most current data available), the incidence of occupational injury and illness in hospitals was 8.1 cases per 100 full-time workers, compared with an average of 4.4 for industry overall. Nursing care facilities had a higher rate of 9.8. Health care workers involved in direct patient care are at great risk back strain(s) and other MSDs from lifting patients and equipment; potential to exposures to radiation and caustic chemicals; and to exposures to infectious diseases, such as AIDS, tuberculosis, and hepatitis.  

In order to drive holistic safety improvements for both employee and patient across the entire hospital ecosystem a shift in philosophy will be essential to successfully keep up with the demands of this industry.  The symbiotic relationship between patient safety and employee safety cannot be dismissed. As first noted by E. Scott Geller, Ph.D., Professor of Psychology at Virginia Tech, “What impacts one group, impacts the whole”.  Positive changes in hospital safety environments can only come by focusing time, energy and investment on employee programs to compliment already robust patient safety programs.

Our client is large healthcare network operating over 75 Health Care Facilities across the United States and employing over 100,000 associates and their foremost concerns are to maintain a safe environment and reduce both direct and indirect Workers Compensation Costs.  

Solution:

As part their continual improvement efforts Pisano & Associates team was brought in to conduct a 3rd party OSHA Recordable Trends Analysis for (4) hospitals within the client’s network, using the OSHA 300 Log data over a 3 year period.    The P&A team developed a database tool that provided a deep dive assessment of the data and reviewed over 10,000 OSHA recordable looking for key drivers of workplace accidents and injuries.  From there some very basic questions needed to be answered:

  • Which employees’ are at the greatest risk for injury and illness? 
  • Are there common denominators between the high risk group(s)?  Type of Injury? Behavior? Location? Activity?  Job Title?
  • Does the existing Incident Investigation Database System capture the necessary data for an accurate and valuable data analysis? For example, if a patient is also injured during an employee incident does the system make it possible to make a “connection” between employee injury and patient injury?
  • Based on the findings, what existing or new safety and health programs need to be enhanced, or developed and implemented that will drive the greatest reduction in employee injury and result in a safer patient environment?
  • What approach should be taken to efficiently and successfully implement these programs?

 Result:                                                                    

This extensive analysis of 10,000 OSHA Recordable Incidents showed that 80% of the total incidents, restricted/transfer days, and days away from work involved one of the following:

  • Patient Handling
  • Materials Handling
  • Needlesticks/sharps
  • Slips/Trips/Falls

The following programs were recommended:

  • ERGONOMICS: Focus – Patient Handling & Material Handling
  • EXPOSURES: Focus – Needlestick/Sharps
  • SLIPS/TRIPS/FALLS

In addition, RN’s accounted for approximately 30% of the total incidents, the restricted/transfer days, and the total away from work. As a result a Safety & Ergonomics effort both focusing on and involving RN’s was also recommended as part of a total safety culture effort.

Finally the results showed that 40% of all incidents occurred in the Patients room, they accounted for 35% of all restricted/transfer days and 30% of all days away from work.  It was also recommended that they integrate employee and patient incident tracking and reporting in the existing database. This will allow for a much more accurate estimate of potential cost savings and liability cost avoidance when developing and implementing the recommended programs.

As a result of the project our client is doing the following:

  • Moving aggressively towards adopting and embracing the ‘Total Safety Culture’ philosophy.
  • Addressing the limitations of their OSHA reporting system that were identified during the project and investigating how to capture and integrate both employee and patient incidents and how they relate to each other.
  • Targeting an 80% reduction in employee injuries and related workers compensation costs both direct and indirect base based on recommendations
  • The safety and well-being of the nursing staff is at the center of hospital group’s strategy – nurses’ are active in all phases of program development and rollout.
  • Employees and management participate in specific safety task forces to promote both employee and patient safety and to develop programs, policies and procedures. Some of these task forces include: the Needle Stick Prevention Task Force, Safe Patient & Material Handing, Medication Safety, and Emergency Management. Hazard surveillance and environmental rounds are done on a regular basis. This activity provides inspection and review of all work areas. Recommendations for improvements are reviewed by the Environment of Care Committee and evaluated and implemented by management.
  • Working collaboratively with OSHA and other regulatory organizations to ensure a high level of employee safety.

If you’d like to know more about this project – feel free to contact me via email or phone – cdavis@ergonomicedge.com or 401 527 7047

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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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Yesterday was a good day.  The ERGOLAB team is working with a leading luxury goods manufacturer and marketer to address high risk tasks within production facilities.  The program is moving forward nicely, our redesign is in test phase, solution validation is right around the corner.  Company A is thrilled with the outcome.  

The day BEFORE yesterday…that day wasn’t quite as good.  Similar work on behalf of a different ERGOLAB client continues to stall out, lose momentum and  focus.  This task redesign work lauched months before the above mentioned case study, yet we have little to show for it.  Company B is frustrated, and rightly so.   

At first blush, the clients are very similar; industry leaders, global brands, organizational commitment to Ergonomic practices.  So….why the difference?  Why is Company A so much further along that Company B?   

One word.  EMPOWERMENT.  

At Company A, the culture encourages and rewards employee ‘intrapreneurship’ (think entrepreneurship BUT inside a company structure, not out).  Have a new idea to streamline a process and improve productivity?  Pitch the idea to your up line manager.  Company A employees are expected to partner with management in the continuous improvement initiatives of the company.  As consultants, ERGOLAB gets to partner with client employees who are engaged and invested in the program and it’s outcomes.  There is nothing better than working within a client community of people with pride, enthusiasm, and passion for their work and workplace.   Empowered employees make us look good.  

Company B does not practice an Empowerment management philosophy.  Employee roles are narrowly defined.  Suggestions are accepted, but rarely acted upon.  The employees want to participate in making their workplace a better place, but the current management style doesn’t allow for that type of a role.  Driving positive change at Company B is a challenge; as our ERGOLAB methodologies require employee participation and collaboration in all phases of solution development and testing.   Our biggest hurdle is often MANAGEMENT; their need to control and edit employee involvement and access to ALL the information is a real roadblock. 

So…what about your company?   As an employer, have you created an environment that encourages employee empowerment?      

To paraphrase Lao Tzu in the Tao of Leadership; 

The leader is best… 

When his work is done, his aim fulfilled,  

The people say, ‘We did it ourselves.

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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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Very quietly and with no fanfare or hoopla, OSHA enabled a new database search capability that permits you & I to see a high level view of the workplace accident and injury data of any US-based business.  The story was lost in the buzz about Apples’s new iPad, The State of the Union Address, and Super Bowl hype.   

Here is the link to the new database:  http://bit.ly/ERGOLABOSHA

Our ERGOLAB team was thrilled to see this information made public; our Ergonomic practice (www.ErgonomicEdge.com), is part of an Environmental Health & Safety firm (www.PisanoAssociates.com). Injury and accident results are the fundamental metrics we use to gauge Health & Safety program success.   These numbers are our report card.

So…you’re probably thinking, this data has been collected for years and search technology is nothing new. Why is OSHA making this data available and visible?  Why now?

1.0    (They promised) or  TRANSPARENCY is Good Politics

Throughout the presidential  primaries and general election, the Obama team positioned themselves as Washington outsiders, intent on driving CHANGE . No more business as usual.  The word transparency made its way into every stump speech. The promise, no more meetings behind closed doors, no more cloak and dagger.  The American public has the right to know what it’s government is doing; the Obama Presidency would be different.  

From the moment Labor Secretary Hilda Solis took over, OSHA has moved aggressively towards transparency;

“Making injury and illness information available to the public is part of OSHA’s response to the administration’s commitment to make government more transparent to the American people,” said David Michaels, assistant secretary of labor for OSHA.

  Politics or not, OSHA’s move is a good one.

2.0      ACCELERATE BUSINESS ACCOUNTABILITY

“You get what you inspect, not what you expect.” (quote source unknown)

A fundamental principle in the military, where a dropped assignment can translate into lost lives. Behavior is the function of its consequences.

In the regulatory world, the Environmental Protection Agency is high trump. When the EPA is mentioned to a business owner or executive, the response is action and urgency. Why?  The EPA’s inspection and enforcement arm is swift and punitive. Companies operating outside of regulatory compliance will pay dearly for that state. EPA non-compliance is a game changer, and businesses know it. The EPA gets what they inspect.

OSHA is taken less seriously; companies all across the country ‘whistle past the graveyard’ specific to workplace Safety & Health regulations.  OSHA’s inspection arm has historically been under-staffed and reactive.  The new administration has added inspectors and is working towards a proactive model, however that change will take time. 

So…why did OSHA give you searchable access to this data?

You have been deputized. OSHA has just deputized millions of citizen inspectors all across the country.  You can become the eyes and ears of OSHA.  What’s the first thing you’ll do?  Check out the track record of your employer, your spouses’ employer, the record of the company down the street.  

OSHA wants YOU to inspect for them, extend their reach. 

3.0      THE POWER OF PUBLIC PRESSURE

In the world of public pressure and scrutiny, there will be winners and there will be losers.

Company A and Company B both manufacture windshields and are located in the same small town. 

Company A has embraced workplace Health & Safety as a driving principle of their company. Company A employs Health & Safety professionals; program management is proactive and audited regularly. Company A employees participate in periodic training sessions, Safety is a part of their job responsibilities, they are bonused upon their contributions to a ‘Safer’ workplace. No surprise, Company A has a spotless accident and injury record.  The entire company takes pride in this performance.

Company B takes a more lax approach to Health & Safety. Program ownership resides in many different places in the business; no professional Health & Safety staff works at Company B. Company B’s employees don’t participate in regular Safety & Health training, the only communication they get are a few posters on the team room wall.   Company B addresses issues after there is a problem, their accident and injury record is very poor. 

SCENARIO

You are looking for a job – both companies have offered you a position.  Which offer will you accept? 

After researching the company, searching their accident and injury history, you select Company A.   Why?   Employees want to work for a company that values their health and well-being. 

SCENARIO

A corporate buyer, you are looking for a new supplier of windshields.  Which company will become your new supplier?

The buyer will also select Company A.  In business, the old axiom, ‘You are the company you keep’ applies.  A company’s supply chain is sacrosanct; Company B’s practices would reflect negatively on the corporate buyer’s organization. Why take that risk? 

Company’s in good standing will be rewarded for their work; companies with poor track records will lose employees and lose contracts.  OSHA is relying on public scrutiny and action to drive change.  OSHA won’t need thousands of new inspectors; they’ll let the market drive change.

We’d love to get your point-of-view on OSHA’s new approach. Drop us a line. 

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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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