Ergonomic Concerns With An Aging Workforce

There has been a lot of industry talk about the risk of an aging workforce and how this can affect your workers compensation program. A main risk is how ergonomics plays into injury prevention, not only for an aging worker but for all workers.

 

Here are several ergonomic issues, and ways to try to trim your exposure:

 

 

Why should employers be concerned about this issue?

 

I recently read in the paper where it is projected that 50% of workers expect to work into their 70s, some into their 80s, and some plan to never retire! The reasons for such a statement would vary per the individual needs of the person, so it is hard to say exactly why this phenomenon is occurring.

 

Truly there are a number of different factors all combined into why this is happening, I do not think it is solely due to financial needs, or solely due to people just liking to work and be out of the house, on so on. The reality is that it seems there are older workers out there who just are not removing themselves from the workforce. Whether or not this will change in the future is unknown, but the current trend is that workers are not in a hurry to retire.

 

 

 

What are the risk factors?

 

Ergonomics are intended to maximize worker productivity while minimizing fatigue and discomfort. When work stations are designed based on production demand and not on the human element, the result will be increased injury. Worker injury exposure should look at the overall ability of the worker performing the job. It could loosely be said that a 75 year old worker cannot perform as quick nor have the physical stamina of a 25 year old worker. But, you have to take into account worker experience, motivation to perform at a high capacity, overall occupational education, and so on. This would be the human factor of a particular job. Job station risks would include repetitive motion, awkward postures such as bending/stooping and overreaching for items are all ergonomic workstation factors.

 

When a worker is manually handling heavy objects, it forces the body to comply and this can cause injury. An aging workforce most likely cannot continue to meet strict production demands that stress the body at a high capacity without experiencing injury at some point.

 

 

 

How can I reduce the risk?

 

The best thing for employers to do is to contact ergonomists and/or risk control professionals for their expertise on how to control and reduce the risk of ergonomically related claims. Many insurance carriers have adequately trained risk professionals that can help, or they can refer you to an outside vendor for further expertise.

Employers can also start to look at work duties and tasks for all of their employees. They should bear in mind necessary accommodations for an aging worker in a high demand, fast-paced work station.

 

Employers can also use loss run data to look for injury trends in order to pinpoint a particular task that could be increasing injury risk. As well as accommodate the needs of older workers by providing increased breaks, job rotations, sitting options, etc.

 

 

Any other ideas that will help out?

 

Depending on the work demand, a key topic that is having proper footwear and using correct body mechanics when handling materials.

 

Workplace footwear should be slip-resistant and designed for standing on concrete or other hard surfaces for long periods of time within the work environment. Anti-fatigue mats used with the correct footwear reduces pain and fatigue to the back and lower extremities, thereby reducing some injury exposure.

 

Establishing proper body mechanics defined by job description help not only an aging workforce, but all employees, on how to properly handle materials with minimal impact to the vulnerable areas of the body.

 

 

Summary

 

The increased presence of an aging workforce presents new exposure to an employer that was not as prevalent in the past. It is important to be proactive, and to become involved in the injury exposure in order to reduce your risk. Talk with your vendors or your carrier about what options you have for reducing your exposure.

 

 

Author Rebecca Shafer, JD, President of Amaxx Risk Solutions, Inc. is a national expert in the field of workers compensation. She is a writer, speaker, and publisher. Her expertise is working with employers to reduce workers compensation costs, and her clients include airlines, healthcare, printing/publishing, pharmaceuticals, retail, hospitality, and manufacturing. She is the author of the #1 selling book on cost containment, Workers Compensation Management Program: Reduce Costs 20% to 50%. Contact:RShafer@ReduceYourWorkersComp.com.

 

Editor Michael B. Stack, CPA, Director of Operations, Amaxx Risk Solutions, Inc. is an expert in employer communication systems and part of the Amaxx team helping companies reduce their workers compensation costs by 20% to 50%. He is a writer, speaker, and website publisher. www.reduceyourworkerscomp.com. Contact: mstack@reduceyourworkerscomp.com.

 

©2013 Amaxx Risk Solutions, Inc. All rights reserved under International Copyright Law.

 


Do not use this information without independent verification. All state laws vary. You should consult with your insurance broker, attorney, or qualified professional about workers comp issues.

Consider Computer Ergonomics to Reduce White Collar Work Comp Claims

Blue-collar employees are not the only ones that have workers compensation claims. Office workers, especially those that sit in front of a computer all day, are having their share of workers compensation claims. Carpal tunnel syndrome, neck aches, and back aches are common musculoskeletal disorders and they are on the rise.  Additionally, eye strain, headaches and stress on the body from poor computer mechanics can interfere with the employee’s productivity.

 

 

The wrong placement of the keyboard, the monitor, the mouse, the chair or the work surface can produce unnatural stress on the body, especially if the employee is forced to sit and work in an unnatural position.  Poor posture, tilting to either side, leaning forward or stretching to work, all produce pressure on the neck and spine. (WCxKit)

 

 

 

Proper body positioning at the computer is important enough that OSHA has put forth guidelines designed to reduce the number of injury claims that result from improper body alignment with the keyboard and monitor.  The goal of the guidelines is to create neutral body positioning.  When the body is in a neutral position, the joints of the body are naturally aligned.  This minimizes the stress on the muscles, tendons and ligaments.

 

 

The OSHA guidelines for computer ergonomics include:

 

  • Hands, wrists and forearms are straight, in-line and roughly parallel to the floor.
  • Head is level or bent slightly forward, forward facing, and balanced.
  • The head is in-line with the neck and torso.
  • Shoulders are relaxed and upper arms hang normally at the side of the body.
  • Elbows stay in close to the body and are bent between 90 and 120 degrees.
  • Feet are fully supported by the floor or a footrest may be used if the desk height is not adjustable.
  • Back is fully supported with the appropriate lumbar support when sitting vertical or leaning back slightly.
  • Thighs and hips are supported by a well-padded seat and generally parallel to the floor.
  • Knees are about the same height at the hips with the feet slightly forward.

 

In addition to having the body properly aligned with the keyboard and monitor, the employee should take the following steps to reduce the likelihood of creating a musculoskeletal problem:

  • Stand up and walk around for a few minutes periodically.
  • Stretch the torso, legs, arms, hands and fingers.
  • Dangle the arms by their side, shift the position of their legs and shrug the shoulders.
  • Make small adjustments to the chair and backrest.
  • Look away from the computer and refocus the eyes on a distant point.
  • Vary the work in order to utilize different muscles

 

Teaching the employees to use proper posture at the computer can be complicated by things outside of the employee’s control.  For instance, if every employee has the exact same office chair and cubicle with the same fixed level desktop / work surface, the adjustments needed for a 6 foot tal man will be significantly different then the adjustments needed for a 5 foot tall woman. True ergonomics adapts the workplace to fit the specific needs of the employee rather than forcing the employee to adapt to the work area.


The employee
 who is sitting back in a chair with proper lumbar support; with the eyes straight forward or looking down slightly; the head, neck and torso in a natural alignment and the feet flat on the floor, will have rarely develop any type of muscular-skeletal problem. The employer can assist the employees to avoid workers compensation claims arising from the use of their computer. The computer ergonomics the employer should consider include  [WCx]

 

  • The height of the work surface being designed for the employee’s specific job.
  • The office chair being adjustable for the employee.
  • The height of the computer screen being adjustable for the height of the employee.
  • The computer keyboard and mouse being properly placed.
  • The lighting of the surrounding area is appropriate to eliminate glare.

 

The OSHA guidelines for proper computer posture should be provided to all employees.  The safety manager and/or risk manager should work to educate the employees on proper posture at the computer and provide the employees with the necessary furniture, equipment or aids to have proper computer posture.  Proper computer ergonomics will eliminate most computer related musculoskeletal injury claims. Many things about ergonomically correct positions are not obvious to the untrained eye, so become educated about risk reduction in this area if you have employees working on computers, and what employer doesn’t these days.

 


Author Rebecca Shafer, JD,
 President of Amaxx Risk Solutions, Inc. is a national expert in the field of workers compensation. She is a writer, speaker, and publisher. Her expertise is working with employers to reduce workers compensation costs, and her clients include airlines, healthcare, printing/publishing, pharmaceuticals, retail, hospitality, and manufacturing. She is the author of the #1 selling book on cost containment, Workers Compensation Management Program: Reduce Costs 20% to 50%Contact: RShafer@ReduceYourWorkersComp.com.

 

 

WORKERS COMP MANAGEMENT GUIDEBOOK:  www.WCManual.com

FREE WORK COMP CALCULATOR:  www.LowerWC.com/calculator.php

 

 

Do not use this information without independent verification. All state laws vary. You should consult with your insurance broker or agent about workers comp issues.

 

©2012 Amaxx Risk Solutions, Inc. All rights reserved under International Copyright Law. If you would like permission to reprint this material, contact us at: Info@ReduceYourWorkersComp.com.

 

A Better Approach to Safety Includes Pre-Work Exercises

In the November issue of Risk and Insurance magazine is a very interesting article on a better approach to safety. The article is about how the magazine selected Honda Manufacturing of Indiana for their PreVent Award.  The premise of the safety article is trusting the employee to be a part of accident prevention.

 
The article explains how Soichiro Honda, the founder of Honda Motors “was adamant about protecting the individual in the workplace.” This philosophy is followed by Honda Manufacturing of Indiana.  The company strives to give the employees both “the physical and mental training to be prepared to do their jobs effectively and safely.” (WCxKit)
 
 
When new employees are hired, they do not start work immediately.  Instead, they are provided a two week physical conditioning program emphasizing exercises to simulate the movements they will be required to perform on the job.  The program also teaches the employee how to position the body in the best way for job performance in an ergonomically correct manner.  If there are any doubts, please note the employees who complete this physical training have an 80% lower injury rate than employees who did not complete the physical training program.
 
 
The lead safety person at Honda Manufacturing of Indiana credits this ‘whole person approach’ with the effectiveness of their program, plus the company’s safety program has strong support from the upper management.  When Honda was constructing the plant that opened in 2008, the safety program was consulted to build ergonomically correct processes into the production.  Honda allows each manufacturing plant to structure its own safety program around the belief that the local personnel know their own facility better than anyone else.
 
 
The employees are encouraged to use the physical conditioning program outside of the workplace, plus the employees are taught to monitor their own stress and fatigue levels. They are taught how off the job stress can put them at an increase of injury on the job.
 
 
The safety program at Honda is based on the premise that the employee knows the job better than anyone.  The employees know what the hazards are and what causes stress on their body which can ultimately hurt them.  Honda takes the approach of listening to the employees, trusting what the employees have to say about performing their jobs safely, and using that guidance to create safe working conditions. By listening to the employees and implementing safety recommendations, Honda created a safer working environment. 
 
 
When Risk and Insurance magazine was considering various companies for the PreVent Award, it was looking for companies that implement safety programs to prevent work place injuries and provide a safe working environment.  The magazine was looking for employers that were proactive in injury prevention beyond the traditional safety and loss control programs. 
 
 
The criterion for the PreVent Award which is given each November includes
 
1.Total Injury Prevention Focus – which starts with recognizing all potential sources of workplace injuries including suboptimal equipment, inefficient work processes, excessive repetitive motions, poor body mechanics and/or ergonomically incorrect processes.
 
2. Risk Assessment – identifying all potential risk that can lead to injuries
 
3. Proactive Approach – comprehensive strategies to address losses and prevent them from reoccurring. (WCxKit)
 
 
We strongly support safety as a primary means of reducing workers compensation cost.  For more information on how to improve your safety program, please contact us.

Author Rebecca Shafer, JD, President of Amaxx Risk Solutions, Inc. is a national expert in the field of workers compensation. She is a writer, speaker, and website publisher. Her expertise is working with employers to reduce workers compensation costs, and her clients include airlines, healthcare, printing/publishing, pharmaceuticals, retail, hospitality, and manufacturing. She is the author of the #1 selling book on cost containment, Manage Your Workers Compensation: Reduce Costs 20-50% www.WCManual.com. Contact: RShafer@ReduceYourWorkersComp.com.
 

Our WORKERS COMP BOOK:  www.WCManual.com
 
WORK COMP CALCULATOR:  www.LowerWC.com/calculator.php

 
Do not use this information without independent verification. All state laws vary. You should consult with your insurance broker or agent about workers comp issues.
 
©2011 Amaxx Risk Solutions, Inc. All rights reserved under International Copyright Law. If you would like permission to reprint this material, contact Info@ReduceYourWorkersComp.com

See How 4 Companies Benefited from Ergonomic Safety Programs

Tom Cruise was told to “Show me the money” in the movie “Jerry McGuire”. And after some trials and tribulations, he is able to get his client to the very top of his career. I have not watched that movie in a number of years, but every time I talk to an employer about the benefits of a safety program, or the benefits of pursuing a solid ergonomic program, one of the first questions is typically “Show me what it saved the other guys and what it will save me.”

 

 

If the employer believes there is  a safe workplace and a good loss run, then it can be a hard sell.  But what that person does not know is there is always room for improvement.  Also just because it is going ok now does not mean it will be in 3 years from now. The workers comp world is always changing and morphing into the unknown, as the stressors of personal life and work life mount. Until they finally show themselves by stealing attention for 4 seconds, and a hand goes into a worker’s machine.  And at that point that worker’s life is changed forever. WCxKit

 

 

That is an extreme example, but injuries do happen!  Here are 4 examples of companies benefiting from the installation of an ergonomic/safety program.  (References to the examples below are listed at the end of the article.)

 

 

  1. Hensel Phelps Construction

This company began to notice large spikes in musculoskeletal disorders among its employees.  So to combat this problem, they hired and implemented a pilot program at one of the company’s larger construction sites that consisted mainly of a customized stretching and strengthening program for the workers based on the specific jobs they were performing at that site.

 

 

After implementing the program, Hensel Phelps employees logged over 104,000 hours at that pilot jobsite without any reported work-related musculoskeletal disorders.

 

 

104,000 hours! That is 2,600 40-hour workweeks. Hensel went from having a major outbreak of a specific type of injury, to almost wiping it out.  It is hard to argue with that success.

 

 

  1. Quad Graphics

In 1995, Quad Graphics instituted a comprehensive ergonomics program using employee-led management teams to identify ergonomic risk factors for workplace injuries and institute training and controls to reduce the risk drivers.

 

 

Within 4 years, Quad Graphics experiences a 25% reduction in the number of work related injuries, a 39% decrease in the number of back injuries, and an overall reduction in lost work time days of 25%.

 

 

The key here is that Quad uses “employee-led” teams.  We often mention using your employees as a resource.  They are the ones working those same workstations day after day.  They have legit ideas, so tap into your best free resource and see what they tell you.

 

  1. Rockwell Automation

Rockwell experienced an increase in injury rates at its Milwaukee facility in the early 1990’s as the worker population and seniority rates changed.

 

 

comprehensive approach to injury prevention is developed focusing on ergonomic training, ergonomic retrofitting, and on-site stocking of frequently used ergonomic items such as hand tools, floor mats, foot rests, and anti-vibration gloves.

 

 

Rockwell reports a significant reduction in lost time and/or restricted workdays as a result of the program.

 

 

Again the key is taking a step back, identifying the risk factors, finding out what options are available to reduce the risk, and implementing them.  All you have to do then is sit back and track the numbers over the course of 6 months or a year.  The more you are working at full capacity, the better the production, the stronger the profit margin.

 

 

  1. Tyson Foods in Monett, MO

Tyson discovered increased musculoskeletal disorders identified at this specific location.  In order to combat these numbers, Tyson instituted an on-site medical management program in March 2002 to reduce the number and severity and these injuries.

 

 

The medical management team consists of an on-site physical therapist to assist with job placement and job analyses, as well as follow up on the doctor prescribed treatment of work-related injuries. The occupational health nurses, physicians, and therapists met together at least annually as a group to discuss the successes of the program as well as to recognize any areas of improvement.

 

 

This program is successful because it produces enhanced job placement, improved and personalized modification of job duties for injured employees, improved communications between the therapist, doctor, team member, and management team, as well as faster recovery times, and in some cases it leads to prevention of work-related injuries/illnesses. Again this is a fantastic success for a large manufacturing location such as this. WCxKit

 

 

Summary

There are no more excuses for not implementing a safety team or program after reviewing these 4 examples.  Each of these stories is a great example of identifying a problem, establishing a program to correct it, and tracking the successes of your implementations.  Your broker/carrier/TPA has resources to get you started in the right direction.   The sooner the program is implemented, the sooner to start saving on claims.

 

References

http://www.osha.gov/dcsp/success_stories/ergonomics/hensel.html

http://www.osha.gov/dcsp/success_stories/ergonomics/quadgraphics.html

http://www.osha.gov/dcsp/success_stories/ergonomics/rockwell.html

http://www.osha.gov/dcsp/success_stories/ergonomics/tyson.html

 

Author Rebecca Shafer, JD, President of Amaxx Risk Solutions, Inc. is a national expert in the field of workers compensation. She is a writer, speaker, and website publisher. Her expertise is working with employers to reduce workers compensation costs, and her clients include airlines, healthcare, printing/publishing, pharmaceuticals, retail, hospitality, and manufacturing. She is the author of the #1 selling book on cost containment, Manage Your Workers Compensation: Reduce Costs 20-50% www.WCManual.comContact: RShafer@ReduceYourWorkersComp.com.

 

 

WORK COMP CALCULATOR:  www.LowerWC.com/calculator.php

MODIFIED DUTY CALCULATOR:  www.LowerWC.com/transitional-duty-cost-calculator.php

WC GROUP:   www.linkedin.com/groups?homeNewMember=&gid=1922050/

 

 

Do not use this information without independent verification. All state laws vary. You should consult with your insurance broker or agent about workers comp issues.

 

©2011 Amaxx Risk Solutions, Inc. All rights reserved under International Copyright Law. If you would like permission to reprint this material, contact Info@ReduceYourWorkersComp.com.

 

Ergonomics, Pre existing Conditions and Workers Compensation

It is time to address a topic about causal relation in a workers comp caseThis case involves a teacher and school aid in a library, where the desktop computer is being replaced by a laptop. Soon after the switch, both employees begin to complain about neck pain since the height of the monitor on the laptop could not be adjusted from person to person, and extended use was causing some neck pain. The insured wondered if the change to a laptop was causing the neck problems and if these would be considered as workers compensation cases. We discuss the investigation of causal relation here.

 

  1. What does the treating doctor say in the medical records?

The most important aspects of this case will be the causal relation statements the physician makes. If the two employees are of the same height and build, why are they complaining of pain, more importantly how is the laptop situated, and how is that causing neck pain? Prolonged sitting in a non-comfortable ergonomic position can lead to strains of the neck, but at a normal desk this should not cause neck pain. Is the laptop screen at eye level or situated down inside the actual top of the desk, where the employees are looking down at the screen? Or is the laptop mounted on top of something where the neck is in a constant extended position? Are other employees complaining of pain or having a hard time viewing the screen of the laptop?  WCxKit

 

It is important to remember in this situation that if an employee comes to an employer and complains of pain and wants to pursue a workers comp claim with supporting medical documentation stating a work injury is present, then it is the employer’s duty to call the claim in to the carrier. The adjuster will make the determination, if the claim is compensable. Certainly more than one employee complaining about the same issue can lead to a more convincing case, but it does not mean it will be automatically accepted. Take pictures of the desk and of these people sitting at the desk as they normally would and send those on to the adjuster as well, so the adjusters can see the setup of the work station and pass that information on to the physician. Being able to actually see the worker sitting as they normally would will help them arrive to the proper decision on the case.

 

  1. Does either employee have a history of neck pain from another source?

One of the first questions the adjuster will ask is if either employee has a history of neck pain or prior surgery. This could predispose them to having pain if the neck is positioned in certain ways. Again it does not mean that the laptop setup itself is responsible for the pain. It could be pre-existing post-surgical pain that is the culprit. Prior auto accidents involving whiplash complaints can also contribute to neck pain in the future. Also the employees’ activities outside the workplace are unknown.  Maybe one or both of them are engaged in activities that fatigue the neck, and this laptop exacerbated that non-occupational pain.  A question about whether the injury could have another cause is part of a normal investigation in just about every workers compensation claim.

 

 

  1. Is the workstation adjustable or not?

If these employees are of different height, can the chair or workstation be adjusted to properly fit them? And if so, are they still complaining about pain? If nothing is adjustable, are other employees of similar builds complaining about the position of the laptop screen? Why or why not? Again, if no other employees are complaining about any problem with the laptop, then go back to these two employees. What is the relationship to each other? Do these two often hang out at the school? Are they in common positions and have similar duties? How long are they actually sitting at this computer and how often are they required to be moving up and around during the day? All of these questions are part of a normal investigation the adjuster will do, and as the employer, try and gather as much of this information as possible to help the adjuster make the proper determination on the claim.At the same time the claim is investigated by the adjuster, the incidents should be reported to the safety director who should review the workstation design. Consider having an ergonomic consultant review the set up. Ask your TPA or insurance carrier what resources are available for ergonomic consulting. Consider what other equipment could be provided to make the work station more comfortable.

 

  1. Has the adjuster performed an IME or peer review yet?

Usually background searches have been completed for prior injuries, and the next thing is to gather all of the medical evidence and set an IME with a qualified physician or occupational medicine doctor to address the causal relation. Is there any objective evidence of degenerative arthritic conditions in the neck that can contribute to this pain? Was an MRI performed, and if so are there any objective results, and, if so, how can they relate to the ergonomics of the workstation? This should all be part of the normal investigation on the claim, and all of these questions should be included in the cover letter to the IME doctor, so that doctor can specifically address these questions with the correct answers, using objective medical evidence to back up the opinion.

 

  1. What is the decision–is this compensable or not?

This is the million-dollar question. There are cases like this where these are accepted injuries under workers comp and similar cases where coverage is denied for similar complaints. The lesson here is that no two cases are the same. Maybe one of these employees has no pre-existing condition, and the other one has a prior surgery. This could play a role in which case is compensable and which one is not. It will be up to the adjuster on the file to make a decision on the compensability. Even if the employer disagrees with the decision, there is little to do to swing the case the other way. Let the adjuster do a thorough investigation and stand by the decision. If the worker disagrees with the decision,  there are ways to appeal the decision and research to pursue that on their own. That is the choice of the worker. WCxKit

 

 

Summary

Ergonomic claims such as this one are going to happen at some point. The key thing to remember as the employer is to do a thorough investigation. Gather as much information as possible, even if it appears to not matter in the final outcome. The adjuster always prefers too much information rather than not enough. Take pictures, and assist the adjuster in any request they have. They will make the proper decision on the claim, since that is an adjuster’s job day in and day out. If, however, you disagree with the decision, make sure to talk this out with the adjuster and the claim supervisor.

 

 

Author Rebecca Shafer, JD, President of Amaxx Risk Solutions, Inc. is a national expert in the field of workers compensation. She is a writer, speaker, and publisher. Her expertise is working with employers to reduce workers compensation costs, and her clients include airlines, healthcare, printing/publishing, pharmaceuticals, retail, hospitality, and manufacturing. She is the author of the #1 selling book on cost containment, Workers Compensation Management Program: Reduce Costs 20% to 50%Contact: RShafer@ReduceYourWorkersComp.com.

 

 

New 2012 WORKERS COMP MANAGEMENT GUIDEBOOK:  www.WCManual.com

WORK COMP CALCULATOR:  www.LowerWC.com/calculator.php

MODIFIED DUTY CALCULATOR:  www.LowerWC.com/transitional-duty-cost-calculator.php

WC GROUP:  www.linkedin.com/groups?homeNewMember=&gid=1922050/

SUBSCRIBE:  Workers Comp Resource Center Newsletter

 

Do not use this information without independent verification. All state laws vary. You should consult with your insurance broker or agent about workers comp issues.

 

©2012 Amaxx Risk Solutions, Inc. All rights reserved under International Copyright Law. If you would like permission to reprint this material, contact us at: Info@ReduceYourWorkersComp.com.

 

Occupational Low Back Pain Causes, Workplace Solutions and Treatment Options

Authors: Brian Anderson DC, CCN, MPH and David C. Radford, DC, MSc

 

 

Employers are unlikely to find another issue that leads to more absenteeism and detracts from productivity in the workplace more than occupational low back pain (LBP). This, the first in a series of articles, introduces the ubiquity of this problem in the workplace, what solutions are effective in addressing it, and what treatment options can be most successfully employed when workers do injure their low backs.

 

 

In order to understand the scope of this problem, it is worthwhile to discuss some statistics related to occupational LBP.

 

  • Occupational LBP is the largest single health problem related to work absenteeism, and the  most common cause of incapacity among workers younger than forty-five years old.
  • Worldwide, 37% of LBP was attributed to occupation.
  • 1% of the US population is permanently disabled from this problem.
  • Occupational LBP accounts for 68% of sick days and 76% of sick leave payment costs in some industries.

 

As is obvious from the above statistics, LBP consistently creates huge expenditures and time loss from work. Employees whose job involves lifting, bending, twisting or repetitive spinal movements are most at risk for these injuries. This type of LBP is classified as kinetic or dynamic overload injury. Due to the nature of LBP, these workers are also more likely to need extended time off work when suffering a low back injury. Transitionally, they may also need modified duty for a period of time on their return to work.

 


Ergonomic interventions
, which will be addressed in part two of this series, are crucial for the prevention of occupational LBP. Acute LBP is almost never related to one specific event, but rather is the culmination of a long history of improper mechanics and micro-trauma to the spine. As apposed to kinetic injury, static or postural LBP is also a huge problem for “desk jockeys,” or those who sit for prolonged periods of time. Lack of movement can sometimes be as detrimental as too much movement.

 

To summarize, the risk factors for occupational LBP are:

 

  • cumulative traumas;
  • dynamic activity-trunk flexion and rotation, heavy physical work, bending or squatting, lifting or carrying loads;
  • long work shifts without pauses;
  • static and inadequate postures.

 

 

Workers suffering low back injuries can be divided into three groups: work being the primary cause of LBP; work being one of many contributing factors related to LBP; and those with a preexisting back injury which may be aggravated by work. Those workers who fall into the latter category should be very carefully monitored. There will always be cases of occupational LBP that cannot be predicted or even prevented, but a worker with a previous history of LBP does not fall into this category. Matching the worker to the job is a crucial prevention strategy, which will be discussed in part two of this series.

 

 

What should be most concerning to employers, and is likely the most important reason for intervention, is preventing acute low back pain from becoming a chronic problem. There is plenty of data to suggest that most acute low back pain is self-limiting. With or without treatment, many cases of acute low back pain resolve in a few weeks. There are, however, two issues that should be of concern regarding occupational LBP; recurrence and chronicity. The recurrence rate of low back pain is 30-60% within 1-2 years.

 

 

There are also some documented risk factors for developing chronic LBP after an acute injury which employers and health care providers should be aware of. These are:

 

  • dissatisfaction with work
  • physical inactivity/obesity
  • low vitamin D levels
  • smoking
  • performing heavy lifting
  • depression
  • being involved in litigation
  • educational level

 

 

In part three of this series, we will discuss treatment options designed to prevent chronic low back pain.

 

 

If employers are not actively working with their company nurses and doctors developing strategies and programs to address and prevent occupational LBP, hopefully they will after reading this series of articles. Next time we will address programs and interventions targeting primary and secondary prevention of occupational LBP. Stay tuned!

 

 

Resources:

 

  1. Estimating the global burden of low back pain attributable to combined occupational exposures – http://www.who.int/quantifying_ehimpacts/global/5lowbackpain.pdf
  2. Occupational low back pain: Rev Assoc Med Bras 2010; 56(5): 583-9
  3. Preventing Occupational Low-Back Pain. West J Med 1988 Feb; 148:235
  4. Can We Identify People at Risk of Non-recovery after Acute Occupational Low Back Pain? Results of a Review and Higher-Order Analysis. Physiother Can. 2010;62:9 –16
  5. Designing a workplace return to work program for occupational low back pain: an intervention mapping approach. BMC Musculoskeletal Disorders 2009 10:65
  6. Liebenson, C. Rehabilitation of the Spine- A Practitioners manual, 2ndedition. Lippincott Williams & Wilkins

 

 

Dr. Anderson works as a supervising clinician and instructor at National University of Health Sciences in Lombard IL. He has been in private practice, as well as part of a team in a University based Integrative Medicine setting. In addition, Dr. Anderson has experience in the medico-legal field, serving as an expert for various insurance companies and legal firms. He earned a Masters Degree in Public Health, as well as a Certified Clinical Nutritionist designation. He is currently working toward a specialty diplomate in Functional Rehabilitation. Contact Dr. Anderson for more information at banderson@nuhs.edu

 

 

Dr. Radford is in private practice. He is a third generation Doctor of Chiropractic Medicine. He earned a Master’s Degree in Advanced Clinical Practice and he provides conservative primary care. He has treated work related injuries for more than 30 years. Dr. Radford has found that treating the co-morbidities that often accompany injured workers like obesity, medication overuse, and addiction lead to a more complete recovery. He was a founding member of the Cleveland Orthopaedic and Spine Hospital, Cleveland, Ohio. Contact for more information at DCR8888@aol.com or (440)-248-8888.

 

 

Our WORKERS COMP BOOK:  www.WCManual.com

 

WORK COMP CALCULATOR:  www.LowerWC.com/calculator.php

MODIFIED DUTY CALCULATOR:  www.LowerWC.com/transitional-duty-cost-calculator.php

WC GROUP:   www.linkedin.com/groups?homeNewMember=&gid=1922050/

SUBSCRIBE:  Workers Comp Resource Center Newsletter

 

Do not use this information without independent verification. All state laws vary. You should consult with your insurance broker or agent about workers comp issues.

 

©2011 Amaxx Risk Solutions, Inc. All rights reserved under International Copyright Law. If you would like permission to reprint this material, contact

 

7 Ways to Get to the Bottom of Ergonomics in Your Workplace

 

 

pic1Ergonomics is just not for factory environments anymore. It has been well-documented that almost any workplace can be outfitted with simple ergonomic solutions to make your employees more comfortable while working, and at the same time reduce your exposure for repetitive injury claims.

 

 

  1. Listen to your employees!

Nobody knows more about the difficulties of day-to-day tasks than employees working day after day, week after week, year after year. Listening to your employees about how to make their jobs easier is free. Involving them in workplace ergonomic solutions can also make them feel more involved, while at the same time improve morale which can lead to decreased claims and their associated costs. This can be as simple as lowering supplies stored overhead, raising work benches, making bins easier and lighter to handle, reinforcing handles on containers, and many other simple, inexpensive changes. Almost every employee will already have some ideas on how their work can be done easier and more productively by correcting a few issues in the workplace.(WCxKit)

 

 

  1. Use your Insurance Company’s Resources

The vast majority of insurance companies/TPAs have a loss-control consultant, or possibly an ergonomics specialist on staff. This may even be a free or low-cost service. Having specialists perform a workplace evaluation or to watch workers while they complete their tasks can lead to simple corrections in ergonomics. Since these individuals already do work with similar employers, they may already have simple fixes readily on hand. The feedback they produce can be priceless given their experience in your industry.

 

 

  1. Look at Your Work Comp Loss Run

Do you see any trends? Does one particular workstation produce more injuries than another? Look at the dates of hire on these claims, are these long-term employees getting injured or is it the newer employees that are getting injured due to lack of experience? Numbers and history will often speak for itself, and you can notice any injury trends according to department, hire date, workstation, etc., and this can create a “to-do list” for what you want to correct and how to correct it.

 

 

  1. Utilize an Outside Vendor

It is probable that you already work with a vendor or have your own contacts for medical case management. These vendors may have someone on staff or they will have a contact to give to you so you can set up an ergonomic assessment. If they do refer you, that particular company or individual has already gained their trust in providing quality work at a reasonable cost. Finding the right contact for this job is priority #1. A thorough evaluation can awaken you to hazards you did not know were lurking in the shadows. The cost associated with an ergomomics evaluation or with workstation adjustments will result in an overall cost savings versus paying for injured employees who are out of work.

 

 

  1. Ask your Medical Clinic for Advice

If you have an occupational clinic to which you send injured employees, it is probable they have a physician or ergonomic specialist on staff to assist you in your quest for ergonomic solutions. This will include a site visit and worker observation in their workplace environment. What better resource than a physician to take a look at the layout of your workspace and suggest corrections to common ergonomic problems? Plus, if they can’t recommend the exact solution, they can probably point you in the direction of someone who can, which leads to a quality contact for you, the employer. Consider using an on-site occupational clinic if you have many employees in one location or are in a remote workplace where medical care is not easily accessible.

 

 

  1. Think about the Pros and Cons of Adjustable Workstations

It is rare that all employees are of the same size and stature, but workstations are often all the same height and size. This presents an issue. If you have one receptionist who is 5’1” tall, and another who is 6’1”, a cubicle of standard issue may be too tall for one employee and too low for the other. Adjustable desks and chairs can provide a common solution to this problem. This way, when you have turnover or gain new employees through growth, you can automatically adjust these new workstations to the employee-specific requirement, making them more comfortable while working.

 

 

  1. If All Else Fails, use Known Vendors 

Big names in office supply furniture are up-to-date on new trends and advancements in workstation design and implementation. This can open the door to a resource from a place where you already order supplies and equipment. Many of these companies also collect feedback and opinions from their customers, so they can present you with positive and negative feedback on your potential purchases depending on your situation and needs. This prevents you from making a bad purchase and investing in bad capital. If you attend national conferences, such as RIMS Annual Conference in the Spring, you’ll find ergonomics resources in the Exhibit Hall.

 

 

In summary, ergonomic resolutions and improvements should not be overlooked no matter how long you have been in business. These corrections can lead to decreased injuries, which, in turn, provides a lower claim costs, less insurance costs, and a more profitable, safer company for you and your employees.

 


Author Rebecca Shafer
, JD, President of Amaxx Risks Solutions, Inc. is a national expert in the field of workers compensation. She is a writer, speaker, and website publisher. Her expertise is working with employers to reduce workers compensation costs, and her clients include airlines, healthcare, printing/publishing, pharmaceuticals, retail, hospitality, and manufacturing. See www.LowerWC.com for more information. Contact:RShafer@ReduceYourWorkersComp.com.
WORKERS COMP BOOK  www.WCManual.com


WORK COMP CALCULATOR: 
http://www.LowerWC.com/calculator.php

MODIFIED DUTY CALCULATOR:  http://www.LowerWC.com/transitional-duty-cost-calculator.php

WC GROUP: http://www.linkedin.com/groups?homeNewMember=&gid=1922050/

SUBSCRIBE: Workers Comp Resource Center Newsletter

 

Do not use this information without independent verification. All state laws vary. You should consult with your insurance broker or agent about workers comp issues.

 

©2011 Amaxx Risk Solutions, Inc. All rights reserved under International Copyright Law. If you would like permission to reprint this material, contact Info@ReduceYourWorkersComp.com

 

Office Ergonomics

When employers hear the word ergonomics, they tend to think about teaching their employees proper lifting techniques to prevent back injuries and to prevent the resulting workers compensation claims. As back injuries for laborers account for a disproportionate share of the number of work comp claims and a disproportionate share of the cost of work comp that is understandable. However, there are a significant number of workers compensation claims to office workers that could be prevented through proper office ergonomics.

 
Sitting in an office chair that is incorrect for the employee is often the cause of back pain. Using a computer keyboard that is placed improperly often results in carpal tunnel syndrome and other repetitive motion injuries. These types of injuries can be prevented by applying ergonomic principles – the scientific study of individuals and their physical relationship to the work environment. (WCxKit)
 
An office ergonomics plan should have the goal of adapting the workplace to fit the individual needs of each specific employee. To accomplish this, three areas need to be considered. They are: (1) the physical shape and size of the employee; (2) an understanding of the employee's job description; (3) the tasks that the employee is required to do. 

In an office environment, a comfortable workstation depends on how the workstation is set up. The location of the computer screen, where the keyboard is placed in relation to the hands, and the type of office chair. An ergonomically incorrect workstation is easy to identify by the employee who is sitting forward in his/her chair, hunched over looking at their computer. The correct workstation will have the employee looking straight ahead while sitting back in their office chair, which provides the employee with lumbar support to keep the back straight, and the neck and head erect. Another quick tip-off that the office is not ergonomically friendly is when all the cubicles have the same height for the work surface and all the cubicles have the same style office chair.

 
Incorrect computer usage and computer placement results in musculoskeletal problems, eye strain, blurred vision, and headaches. Using a computer involves sitting at the same place for an extended period of time, while involved in small repetitive motions of the hands and fingers, and repetitive movement of the eyes. These activities will cause the employee to develop various strains and fatigue. The office employees should be encouraged to:

1.  To shift positions, stretch, walk or take a short break every hour.

2.  To vary their work in order to utilize different muscles.

3.  To have annual eye exams.

4.  To be sure their workstation or work space is set up ergonomically correct to fit their physical needs and requirements.

There are four steps to setting up an office work space to be ergonomically correct. The four steps are:

1.  The work surface height is designed for the employees specific job.

2.  The office chair is adjustable for the employee.

3.  The height of the computer screen is adjustable for the height of the employee.

4.  The computer keyboard is properly placed.

 
The work surface height, whether the employee is sitting or standing should be designed to fit the job being done taking into consideration the tools used or equipment used. For example, the height of the work surface of an artist would be higher than the work surface of a writer. The work surface height also needs to be adjustable to the height of the specific employee who will be working at that location.
 
An adjustable office chair should be provided for employees seated at a desk. The chair should be raised or lowered so that the employees work surface is elbow high – the employee when sitting straight up in the office chair, with his arms at his side, can rest his elbows on the desk without slouching. The chair should provide lumbar support, neck and head support with the back rest pushing the low back slightly forward. There should be three to four inches from the front edge of the seat to the employee's leg calf. To avoid pressure on the back of the legs, the height of the chair should cause the thighs to be slightly above the front edge of the chair. If necessary, a foot rest should be provided to raise the knees slightly eliminate pressure on the back of the thighs.
 
When the height of the work surface has been adjusted to fit the employee and the chair has been adjusted, the employee should sit in the chair with proper posture and look straight ahead without tilting the head downward or upward or to the side. The center of the employees gaze is where the center of the employees computer monitor should be placed. The computer monitors support stand should be adjustable to place the computer screen at this height.
 
The computer keyboard should be placed so that the employee does not have to twist to either side to use the keyboard. The keyboard should be directly in front of the employee and placed at a level where the employee does not have to bend the wrist either downward or upward to use the keyboard. (The main cause of carpal tunnel syndrome for office workers is the incorrect placement of the keyboard causing the employee to bend their wrist while typing). (WCxKit)
 

A proper setup of the workstation will eliminate most back strains and repetitive motions strains incurred by employees. The proper height of the work surface, the proper adjustment of the chair, the proper placement of the computer monitor and the proper placement of the computer keyboard are all important. By preventing the causes of office related strains, the employer will eliminate most office related workers' compensation claims


Author Rebecca Shafer
, JD, President of Amaxx Risks Solutions, Inc. is a national expert in the field of workers compensation. She is a writer, speaker, and website publisher. Her expertise is working with employers to reduce workers compensation costs, and her clients include airlines, healthcare, printing, publishing, pharmaceuticals, retail, hospitality, and manufacturing. See www.LowerWC.com for more information. Contact: RShafer@ReduceYourWorkersComp.com.
 

 
Do not use this information without independent verification. All state laws vary. You should consult with your insurance broker or agent about workers comp issues.
 
©2011 Amaxx Risk Solutions, Inc. All rights reserved under International Copyright Law. If you would like permission to reprint this material, contact Info@ReduceYourWorkersComp.com.

Ergonomics is Key To Decrease Workers Comp Costs in Manual Labor

Ergonomics, per the U.S. Department of Labor, is the science of fitting workplace conditions and job demands to the capabilities of the working population. This is important to workers compensation because the most prevalent type of injury is musculoskeletal disorders.   In occupations involving manual labor, musculoskeletal disorders often equal 50% or more of the workers comp claims that are filed. Per OSHA, improper ergonomics is the single largest cause of severe injuries.
Many of the musculoskeletal injuries involve cumulative wear and tear creating a condition known as cumulative trauma disorder (CTD). CTD encompasses various types of workers comp injuries from carpal tunnel syndrome to tendonitis to back injuries. (In some jurisdictions, the terminology of repetitive strain injuries (RSI) is used for cumulative wear and tear.   In this blog we will use CTD, but if you are more familiar with RSI, feel free to read RSI wherever you see the letters CTD.) (WCxKit)
CTD is caused by ergonomic risk factors of force, repetitive motion, posture, vibration and cold. These frequently occur when there is:
1.      manual labor involving frequent or heavy lifting,
2.      hand tool usage,
3.      pulling, pushing and carrying of heavy objects,
4.      awkward postures,
5.      prolonged exertion of the hands,
6.      prolonged equipment operation.
 
Many manual labor jobs include more than one risk factor. The more risk factors the employee is exposed to, the higher the probability of the employee developing CTD. The longer the duration of the exposure, the greater the intensity of the exposure and the more frequent the exposure, the sooner the employee will develop a CTD workers comp claim. 
To combat the risk of a CTD developing, the employer should develop an ergonomically correct process for each job. Or, stated another way – employer should search for ways to make the job fit the employee rather than trying to force the employee to fit the job. The proper, ergonomically correct way of doing the job should be incorporated into the employer's safety program
It is not enough to advise employees they need to do their job in an ergonomically correct manner. Proper training is essential for the ergonomics program to work. ALL employees should be trained:
1.      To recognize activities that expose them to CTD injury.
2.      To understand the ways to do their job in the most ergonomically correct manner.
3.      To identify the symptoms and signs of CTD.
Most manual labor jobs can be altered to reduce or eliminate risk factors. For instance, instead of the employee trying to carry a heavy load, a forklift can move the heavy item (often faster with an increase in productivity). Another example would be the worker on manual scaffolding who has to bend over frequently over materials. Adjustable scaffolding can be used to minimize the constant bending.
Employees should be provided with a full explanation as to why the way they do their job is being changed. When employees are involved in the changes and understand how they will benefit from using ergonomically correct ways of performing their job, they will be more motivated and have higher job satisfaction. (WCxKit)
 The employer's management team should emphasis to the work force that the safety program includes proper ergonomics.   The employer can encourage proper ergonomics by:
1.      Committing the resources to bring in outside experts, if needed.
2.      Training the employees in the ergonomically correct way of performing their job.
3.      Issuing a policy statement reflecting the company's commitment to proper ergonomics on the job.
4.      Provide work breaks or changes in work assignments when there are ergonomic concerns.
5.      Obtaining the support of the labor union in protecting the employees from CTD.
6.      Incorporating proper ergonomics into the department's supervisor performance evaluation.
7.      Giving priority status to ergonomics when dealing with productivity, quality assurance and cost reduction issues.

Workers compensation claims by manual laborers can be significantly decreased in both the number of claims and the severity of claims by the proper use of ergonomics in lifting, pushing, pulling, carrying and tool usage. The reduction in work comp claims will far exceed the cost of training the employees to do their jobs in an ergonomically correct manner.

Author Rebecca Shafer, JD, President of Amaxx Risks Solutions, Inc. is a national expert in the field of workers compensation. She is a writer, speaker and website publisher. Her expertise is working with employers to reduce workers compensation costs, and her clients include airlines, healthcare, printing/publishing, pharmaceuticals, retail, hospitality and manufacturing.
C
ontact:  RShafer@ReduceYourWorkersComp.com or 860-553-6604. 

JOIN WC GROUP:  http://www.linkedin.com/groups?homeNewMember=&gid=1922050/
SUBSCRIBE TO:    Workers Comp Resource Center Newsletter

Do not use this information without independent verification. All state laws vary. You should consult with your insurance broker or agent about workers comp issues.
 
©2010 Amaxx Risk Solutions, Inc. All rights reserved under International Copyright Law. If you would like permission to reprint this material, contact Info@ReduceYourWorkersComp.com.

Ease the Strain By Using Ergonomic Measurements

More than two thirds of injured workers suffer from repetitive strain injuries, costing over $300 million in lost working hours. A survey of over 1,000 office staff found when employees do report injuries to HR managers, 68% did nothing.1  Time and motion studies (TMS) work to address these issues.
Time and Motion Studies (TMS) help employers to:
1.     Identify risk factors for repetitive motion injuries.
2.     Assess the credibility of repetitive strain injuries.
3.     Make recommendations that will help reduce claims and costs.
Step 1: An Ergonomic Evaluation
TMS is a complex evaluation measuring the elements of various job tasks to identify the presence of risk factors for upper extremity repetitive, forceful motion injuries (workplace musculoskeletal disorders) such as carpal tunnel syndrome. (WCxKit)
The process entails an onsite visit to the workplace by a Vocational Case Manager specially trained in ergonomics. While at the facility a description of the job tasks are obtained, production records are reviewed and measurements are taken. Workers are then videotaped performing all major, required job tasks. The results are then organized, analyzed and compared to nationally recognized risk assessment instruments to determine the presence of risk for compensable injuries. The study then can apply to everyone with the same job description.
Step 2: TMS Benefits
If the job tasks do not place workers at risk, the claims professional can then pursue denial of claim (per jurisdictional guidelines). If the study proves tasks are not forceful in nature, it may eliminate future claims. If the job is repetitive, forceful and potentially harmful to workers, an edited video is provided with a report to assist the employer to modify the work environment, eliminate unnecessary tasks, lower claims or control costs.
The Time and Motion Studies are especially helpful for:
1.       Claims that include workplace musculoskeletal disorders.
2.       Clients with workers doing forceful work or repetitive motion.
3.       Investigations where no previous incidents were reported.
4.       Questions of pre-existing medical conditions such as diabetes, pregnancy and obesity.
5.       Previous workers compensation claims for a similar injury. (WCxKit)
6.       When further information or clarification is needed to determine injury causation.
1Ergonomics and Repetitive Strain Injury, Strategy One for Microsoft, April 2008
Extracted with Permission: BROADSPIRE TIME AND MOTION
These services are available "unbundled" even if Broadspire is not your TPA.
Contributor: Broadspireproviding workers compensation third-party administrative services. For more information, contact Broadspire by calling 1-866-625-1662 or emailing us at Broadspire_Info@choosebroadspire.com; www.choosebroadspire.
 
Do not use this information without independent verification. All state laws vary. You should consult with your insurance broker or agent about workers comp issues.
 
©2010 Amaxx Risk Solutions, Inc. All rights reserved under International Copyright Law. If you would like permission to reprint this material, contact Info@ReduceYourWorkersComp.com.

Professional Development Resource

Learn How to Reduce Workers Comp Costs 20% to 50%"Workers Compensation Management Program: Reduce Costs 20% to 50%"
Lower your workers compensation expense by using the
guidebook from Advisen and the Workers Comp Resource Center.
Perfect for promotional distribution by brokers and agents!
Learn More

Please don't print this Website

Unnecessary printing not only means unnecessary cost of paper and inks, but also avoidable environmental impact on producing and shipping these supplies. Reducing printing can make a small but a significant impact.

Instead use the PDF download option, provided on the page you tried to print.

Powered by "Unprintable Blog" for Wordpress - www.greencp.de