OSHA to focus on ergonomics
WASHINGTON — Some companies, including manufacturers who design tools and equipment with ergonomics in mind, welcome the possibility of ergonomics regulations, as they would benefit workers in industries where MSDs are common.
WASHINGTON — The U.S. Department of Labor''s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) recently released a proposal that would require employers to report worker musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) as part of their Form 300 injury logs, according to Business Insurance.
According to the story, some companies fear that the increased MSD reporting could set the stage for mandatory workplace ergonomics standards.
Marc Freedman, executive director for labor law policy at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce in Washington, said: "The only reason why OSHA would want to capture that data is to build a case for doing something on ergonomics. Whether it''s a full-blown regulation or some other approach, we don''t know. But it''s abundantly clear they want that data for the purpose of moving forward on some approach regarding ergonomics."
Other companies, including manufacturers who design tools and equipment with ergonomics in mind, welcome the possibility of ergonomics regulations, as they would benefit workers in industries where MSDs are common, the story stated.
A common argument is that OSHA''s ergonomics enforcement could be to the detriment of programs that stress improving workplace safety through volunteer efforts and cooperation between OSHA and employers, the story noted.
Many see this announcement, and the fact that OSHA''s 2010 budget has been increased to hire 130 new inspectors, as a precursor to increased enforcement, the story added.
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The industry opines on ergonomics
In a recent post on the CM/Cleaning & Maintenance Management Online™ Bulletin Board, the CMM staff asked industry experts to share their thoughts on ergonomics and the benefits of using ergonomically-designed equipment.
Below is that conversation in its entirety.
Discussion of the Week: Ergonomics: Aaron Baunee: 11/30/2009
Numerous studies have shown that ergonomically-designed equipment can improve employee morale, increase worker productivity and lessen the chance of work-related injuries.
In your opinion, what is ergonomics — a function of product choice, procedural application, etc.?
Do you, when researching new equipment, take ergonomics into account?
Have you or any of your employees requested using more ergonomic tools and equipment — what was the outcome?
Please share your ergonomic successes or failures
Mary Makuski: 12/1/2009
I believe that ergonomics is not only a product choice but also a procedural choice.
Having the correct equipment is great, but the result can be excellent if the equipment is combined with ergonomic procedure training.
When purchasing equipment, ergonomics plays a big part in my choices. I not only look for what will get the job done quickly and completely, but I also look for tools that will inflict less "wear and tear" on my staff.
I do have an employee that has requested ergonomic tools and for more training on ergonomic procedures. I have incorporated this training into my regular training sessions.
Doing this may help my employees to be able to do their jobs longer and thus lower my turnover ratio.
Lynn Krafft: 12/4/2009
Ergonomics plays an important role when a piece of equipment, such as a carpet wand, is being used for extensive periods of time. It needs to be comfortable to hold and control without straining the wrist or arms or back to make it work.
Many rotary floor machines have been designed with slanted handles that fit the hands better and dead man switches that don''t strain the fingers to hold them in place. All handles now are height adjustable, but that was not the case many years back when floor machine handles were fixed and unmovable.
Vacuum cleaner handles need to be comfortable to hold without the wrist being forced to a strange angle. A backpack harness needs to be adjustable to let the unit rest on the hips so the back isn''t strained.
Sometimes the effort backfires. A curved ergonomic mop handle introduced a few years ago was comfortable to hold and maneuver, but didn''t allow the mophead to turn over without a clumsy and time-consuming readjustment of the holder. It''s use would have been a tradeoff.
Team Cleaning keeps one person doing one task for the bulk of the time and ergonomics becomes more important, but there are ways of doing tasks without stress and injury, even when non-ergonomically-designed tools are used. One can mop for hours without harm if good technique is used and a "death grip" on the handle is avoided.
I suspect that there is enough variety in the movements of even a vacuum specialist that, with a bit of care, the repetitive motions that cause physical harm and necessitate ergonomic design are avoided or moderated enough to protect the savvy worker.
Because of this, I don''t see a pressing move toward ergonomic design other than an occasional lengthened mop press handle or more padding on a backpack harness.
I''m not sure that injury to cleaning workers stems as much from tools as from inattention and carelessness. The most comfortable hammer in the world will still smash your thumb when you miss the chisel.