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Posts Tagged ‘Safety’


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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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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Being a naturally curious person, I kicked around cyberspace, looking for guidance on blogging before I started this ERGOLAB blog. Who are the current thought leaders? Who is really using blogging and other social media, like Twitter, Facebook, Linked In for real business? Would a blog add to our customer’s experience with Ergonomic Edge (our products and consulting business) or would it be a distraction?

During my search, I surfaced the book, “Six Pixels of Separation” by Mitch Joel. I read the book cover to cover in one day, started the ERGOLAB blog, and never looked back. I recommend this book to anyone looking to understand the power of social media. The marketplace is changing, relationships, personal and professional, are being forged in new ways. Buy the book. Read the book.

SO…what does this have to do with Ergonomics? I track Mitch Joel’s Six Pixel blog daily (it is so worth the time); a recent post on the Consumer Electronics Show (CES), chatting about new trends in electronics seemed innocent enough. AND THEN WHAM, the import of Mitch’s comments hit me like the proverbial TON OF BRICKS. Our business, ERGONOMICS is going to change dramatically, because our customers are changing.

Our practice crosses many industries; we work with corporate Environmental Health & Safety (EHS) leadership to find injury drivers within any company environment. Manufacturing, Material Handling & Warehousing, Laboratory…the most common environment is the OFFICE; that magical area of cubicles, copiers and filing cabinets. Where the work is typically heads-down computing, many hours sitting in an office chair typing, talking and writing. Our Ergonomic Edge practice works with clients to design office environments that are human-friendly; provide the support, flexibility and adjustability every worker needs to maintain good ergonomic health. We market and sell Ergonomic seating and accessories products that support this work, the train employees on proper use and adjustment.

So, what Six Pixel comment triggered my epiphany? Take a look…

Our homes (like our offices) are fully connected.

In fact, as more and more devices like the iPhone, BlackBerry, laptops and netbooks take hold, all of us are (or can be) connected all of the time (and yes, this includes our cars as well). Think about it: How many people still go to a physical location to sit down and “surf the Web” in their home or office, compared to the number of people that now have laptops with wireless connections who are online wherever they are? (read the whole post – http://www.twistimage.com/blog/archives/embracing-the-new-business-of-new-media/)

The office, as we know it, is vanishing before our eyes. If you can work anywhere, at any time with the new ‘connectedness’ and new mobile tools – why is your office necessary? Office space costs real money; tricking out the office space with cubicles, desks, chairs and tools adds even more costs. Mr Corporate Bean Counter is asking that question right now…do we need to have offices when our people can work in their homes, at the kitchen table, with little or no impact on productivity?

The office will go the way of the dinosaur, the mastodon and the XFL (remember the XFL…it was the NFL but edgier?).

So….as Ergonomists, we’ll have new challenges:

  • Our purview will extend into the HOME of our corporate client’s employees.
  • No longer will a large chunk of employees all be working within a predictable, standard office environment model – now, every home environment will be different.
  • Due diligence will increase at the worker level.
  • Customization time will increase at the worker level.
  • Old tools, Ergonomic products and accessories will need to be adapted (and some will not make the cut).
  • New tools, new Ergonomic products and accessories will be invented to support this new mobile workforce.

The real challenge.   When the corporate pendulum swings from one paradigm to the next, the shift tends to stop at the extreme. EHS leadership, Safety & Health consultants & Ergonomists must ensure the remote employee is adequately supported in their alternative work environments with tools and training. There will be costs associated with this support. The corporate bean counters will need this guidance. Tools, products and training, on some levels will still be  necessary.

I am interested in your POV on this topic.

Where do you think the ‘office’ is heading?   What kinds of tools will this new worker need?

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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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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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