SAFETY SOLUTIONS: Erogonomics and Machinery Safeguarding
Before a machine can be safely designed, operated and safeguarded the employer or equipment engineer must take the employee into consideration. In today's world, people vs. machinery, prevention of lost time injuries and accidents play an important role in keeping employer costs down and profits at a higher margin. Many times as the manufacturer builds a machine, the location of controls, handling of fixtures and tooling, location of fittings for maintenance and walking / working surfaces, are not taken into consideration.
Statistics have proven the more accidents that take place in a company, the higher a company's insurance premiums, thus the lower the profit margin. Because accident costs are paid from monies from the profit margin, the accountability for accident prevention should remain with the managers who are responsible for production, quality, and safety. Profit or Loss, It Is Up To You. Studies conducted by a national manufacturing association have shown, to recover from the expense of an accident with a total cost of only $500 with a profit margin of 5%:
A Soft Drink Manufacturer must bottle and sell over 61,000 cans of soda
A Food Packer must can and sell over 235,000 cans of corn
A baker must bake and sell over 238,000 donuts
A Butcher must process and sell nearly 67,000 pounds of hamburger
As we go to press, a new Federal OSHA Standard has been developed and is currently being reviewed by industry and is out for public comment for possible implementation and enforcement. Industry and professional associations should take an active interest in this new proposed legislation. Many States have their own Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) Standards, and the ergonomic standard is already developed, published and is currently being enforced. If your safety program is under a state (OSHA) plan, then you should contact the State Occupation Safety & Health (OSHA) office in your area to obtain a copy of their latest regulations.
The Nature of the Problem
Ergonomics is the science of fitting the job to the worker. Ergonomic programs and the development of proper Job Safety & Health Analysis (JSA) can prevent work-related injuries. An average of 300,000 workers can be spared from painful, potentially disabling, injuries, and $9 billion can be saved each year under a proposed ergonomics program standard.
Secretary of Labor, Alexis M. Herman, announced. "Work-related musculoskeletal disorders such as back injuries and carpal tunnel syndrome are the most prevalent, most expensive and most preventable workplace injuries in the country," said Herman. "Real people are suffering real injuries that can disable their bodies and destroy their lives. The good news is that real solutions are available."
Each year 1.8 million U.S. workers experience work-related musculoskeletal disorders, such as injuries from overexertion or repetitive motion. About one-third of these injuries -- 600,000 -- are serious enough to require time off work. Work-related musculoskeletal disorders, or MSDs, account for one-third of all workers' compensation costs each year because these injuries can require a lengthy recovery time.
Women disproportionately suffer some of the most severe MSDs -- not because their bodies are more vulnerable -- but because a large number of women work in jobs associated with heavy lifting, awkward postures or repetitive motion. Women suffer 70 percent of the carpal tunnel syndrome cases and 62 percent of the tendentious cases that are serious enough to warrant time off work. Each year more than 100,000 women experience work-related back injuries that cause them to miss work.
What is a Work-Related MSD?
It is an injury or disorder of the muscles, tendons, ligaments, joints, cartilage and spinal discs. To be considered covered, an MSD injury must be:
- Diagnosed by a health care professional, result in a positive physical finding or serious enough to require medical treatment, days away from work or assignment to light duty work, i.e., an "OSHA-recordable" injury.
- Directly related to the employee's job. (For example, a warehouse worker's back injury would be covered, but that worker's carpal tunnel syndrome may not be considered a work-related injury).
- Specifically connected to activities that form the core or a significant part of the worker's job. (For example, a poultry processor might report tendentious, but a back injury from changing the water bottle occasionally would not be covered.)
General industry employers with workers involved in manual handling or manufacturing production jobs (about 1.6 million worksites). Other general industry employers with one or more workers who experience work-related MSDs after the final standard takes effect (about 300,000 employers each year). 75% of general industry employers will not need to take any action!
What are the Benefits?
Three million MSDs will be prevented over 10 years, an average of 300,000 per year. 27.3 million workers at 1.9 million worksites will be protected. $22,500 savings in direct costs for each MSD prevented. An average of $9 billion savings each year is projected. (Currently MSDs cost $15 to $20 billion in workers' compensation costs with total costs as high as $45 to $60 billion each year.)
What are the Costs?
Fixing a workstation averages $150 per year. Employers will pay $4.2 billion (including $875 million now lost by workers whose income and benefits are not fully covered by workers' compensation).
What Would the Proposal Require?
Basic Program -- for employers with manual handling or manufacturing production jobs:
Management leadership and employee participation.
Select a worker to be responsible for ergonomics and supply resources and training for the program.
Be sure company policies do not discourage employees from reporting problems and let employees know how they can be involved in the ergonomics program.
Hazard information and reporting
Provide information to employees periodically on:
Ergonomic risk factors (force, repetition, awkward/static postures, contract stress, vibration, cold temperatures).
Signs and symptoms of musculoskeletal disorders.
Importance of reporting signs and symptoms early to prevent damage and how to make reports.
Requirements of this standard
Set up a system for employees to report signs and symptoms of MSDs and respond promptly to reports.
Quick Fix -- for problem jobs that can be fixed right away:
- Promptly care for an injured employee.
- Work with employees to eliminate the hazard within 90 days.
- Verify that the fix worked within another 30 days.
- Keep a record of Quick Fix controls.
- Establish a full ergonomics program, if the fix fails or another MSD of the same type occurs in that job within 36 months.
- Full Program -- for employers with a covered MSD. Includes the basic program plus:
Job hazard analysis and control
- Analyze problem jobs for ergonomic risk factors.
- Work with employees to eliminate or materially reduce MSD hazards using engineering, administrative and/or work prac- tice controls.
- Use personal protective equipment to supplement other controls.
- Track progress, and when jobs change, identify and evaluate MSD hazards.
- Train employees in jobs with covered MSDs, their supervisors and staff responsible for the ergonomics program.
- Teach recognition of MSD hazards, the ergonomics program at the site and control measures used to reduce hazards.
- Conduct training initially, periodically and at least every 3 years at no cost to employees and in language they under stand (e.g., Spanish).
MSD Management -- for workers who have covered MSDs.
- Provide prompt response to an injured employee and access to a health care professional, if needed, for evaluation, manage ment and follow-up at no cost to the employee.
- Provide information to the health care professional about the job, the MSD hazards and the ergonomics standard.
- Obtain a written opinion from the health care professional on how to manage the employee's recovery and ensure that the health care professional shares it with the worker.
- Provide necessary work restrictions and work restriction pro- tection (WRP) during the recovery period (100% pay and benefits for employees put on light duty; 90% pay and 100% benefits for employees who must be removed from work). WRP benefits last until the employee can return to work OR the MSD hazards are fixed OR 6 months have passed -- whichever comes first. WRP can be offset by workers com- pensation or similar benefits.
- Evaluate the program periodically - at least every 3 years.
- Consult with employees on program effectiveness and defi- ciencies. Correct any deficiencies.
- Recordkeeping -- for employers with 10 or more employees. Retain most records for only 3 years.
Grandfather Clause -- Employers who have already developed ergonomics programs Will not need to begin again, provided that their ergonomics programs:
Meet the basic obligations and recordkeeping requirements of the standard.
Were implemented and evaluated before the standard became effective.
Are eliminating or materially reducing MSD hazards.
When is an Employer in Compliance?
An employer has met the requirements of the standard when the controls eliminate or materially reduce MSD hazards. Employers can opt for an incremental process, trying one control and adding others if an injured employee does not improve or another MSD occurs in that job.
When can an Employer Discontinue an Ergonomics Program?
If MSD hazards are eliminated or materially reduced and no covered MSD is reported for 3 years, employers may stop all but the following aspects of their ergonomics programs:
For manufacturing or manual handling jobs:
Management leadership and employee participation
Hazard information and reporting
Maintenance of implemented controls and training related to those controls
For other general industry jobs where a covered MSD was reported:
Maintenance of controls/training related to those controls.
When would the Ergonomics Program Standard become effective?
The standard will become effective 60 days after publication of the final standard.
The ergonomics proposal is scheduled to appear in the Nov. 23, 1999, Federal Register. Copies of the proposed regulatory text, the introduction and public participation sections and materials from the news conference are available today on OSHA's website at http://www.osha.gov and specifics to the standard can be found at www. osha-slc/ergonomics-standard/.
OSHA is also making available, at no charge, a CD-ROM with the regulatory text, the preamble, the complete regulatory analysis and the full discussion of health effects. Both the CD-ROM and printed copies can be ordered over the web or by calling 202-693-1888. These materials also will be available on the OSHA website shortly.
Designing tasks with ergonomics in mind is a paramount consideration.
Keep all controls so they can be reached in the proper arm, shoulder and hand position.
Place the most important and most often utilized items directly in front of the worker.
Avoid placement that requires extreme reaches, especially to the side or behind.
Provide space for material to be located 16-18" in front of the body and between the elbows and the shoulder.
Design the point of operation to allow for the neutral position of the shoulder/arm (i.e. 90-100 degrees at the elbow, elbows close to the body, and upper arm close to vertical).
Adjust the worker with an adjustable platform.
Designing for the "average" person or the 50th percentile, is a myth. If you designed a doorway for the "average" person, half of the population wouldn't fit through the door. Design considerations must be for the 90th percentile. There are numerous guidelines and anthropometric tables to assist companies in designing tasks and equipment addressing all aspects from stature and forward functional reach to eye height for particular tasks.
The ergonomic checklist at right is a beginning for awareness and improvement considerations. The OSHA website will provide other ergonomic improvements to assist you as you strive to make your workplace more ergonomic. Keeping workers in a NEUTRAL position is paramount.
Many companies can develop a program, conduct training or perform an ergonomic survey at you location. Should you have specific questions about safety please feel free to write me care of the magazine or e-mail jpodojil @plasticsmag.com.
For more information, click on the Authors Biography at the top of this page.