Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘Health’


iPad with on display keyboard

Image via Wikipedia

ERGOLAB was thrilled when Marie Claire magazine asked for our point-of-view on the potential health risks of iPad and e-reader usage. For some time we’ve been warning tablet and e-reader users on the pain, discomfort and even injury that can come from long-term device use.  We’ve gone on the record in the past…regular iPad use poses real health risks – check out our blog post “This Apple Has a Few Worms” – we agitated some Apple fans in the process.

Read Full Post »


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

Read Full Post »


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

Read Full Post »


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

Read Full Post »


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

If you like this article, could you please send it to a friend, or send out a Tweet, or Stumble it?  Better yet, subscribe to our blog!

Read Full Post »


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    

 

Read Full Post »


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.

 

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »

%d bloggers like this: