Work Injury & Ergonomics
WHAT IS ERGONOMICS?
Ergonomics is the discipline of physical therapy that evaluates the potential for musculoskeletal dysfunction or disorders in the workplace. Because the workplace is as varied as the number of jobs that exist, expertise in ergonomics requires flexibility and communication between the employer and the expert.
Ergonomics can focus on postural deficits at a desk, lifting and lowering in an industrial setting, or repetitive use tasks such as answering phones as a receptionist. While the range of tasks assessed during one of our Ergonomic STRIKEs varies quite widely, our goal in assessing your employees is very finite. When we help you with Ergonomics, we want to make sure that your employees can meet their job function safely, efficiently, and consistently.
During an Ergonomic STRIKE, your ergonomic consultant is going to study
• Workstation fit for an employee
• Job function the employee is tasked with
• Repetition of activities the employee engages in
Ergonomics for the Employee
Your job is to do your job, but sometimes the job doesn't fit you as well as it should. Your desk could be too high, that box could be too heavy, or any number of other common workplace needs made put you in a situation where completing your job is a challenge.
In particular, the way you move can dramatically increase the likelihood that you suffer from a workplace injury by avoiding these common movements or how to perform them properly with ergonomically fit equipment.
6. Static or Sustained Postures
Help for Common Workplace Injuries
Whether you are a Modern Office Worker, or you work with your hands in an Industrial or Manufacturing setting, ergonomics should be important to you. If you are recovering from one of the 4 common workplace injuries, you are going to require treatment from a physical therapist. But what if you have to perform some of the common movements that lead to workplace injury or your workstation has one of the 9 most common risk factors for injury? Can you avoid injury?
The simple answer is YES. But you need to speak with your employer about what you see and identify someone who can help you perform an ergonomic assessment like the FYZICAL Ergonomic STRIKE Assessment. You may also want to incorporate stretching and strengthening into your routine. We recommend the Core 4 Stretches at a minimum, and if you are performing these throughout the day, we recommend you also perform the Great * while you are at work
Core 4 Stretches
1. Hip Rotator Stretch
2. Seated Hamstring Stretch
3. Neck (Upper Trapezius) Stretch
4. Wrist Extensor Stretch
Great 8 Stretches
1. Hip Flexor Stretch
2. Lying Hamstring Stretch
3. Neck (Levator Scapulae) Stretch
4. Wrist Flexor Stretch
5. Downward Dog
6. Vertical, Medial, & Lateral Hamstring Stretch
7. Butterfly Adductor Stretch
8. Double Knee to Chest Stretch
Ergonomics for the Employer
If you are an employer or a manager, you might be asking why you should care about ergonomics. Beyond caring for your employees, you have shown through training and development, that an ergonomic evaluation can help prevent a variety of common workplace injuries that cost your real money in the treatment of your employee injuries and lost productivity.
In Oklahoma in 2012 (the last year we have data for), over 3800 injuries were reported for private industry alone. Injuries to the Back (1280 cases), Neck (200 cases), and Upper Extremity (1470 cases) were some of the top injury categories. Even injuries that might be considered relatively minor led to a significant loss of productivity when considering the number of days away from work (DAFW; e.g., Muscle Strains averaged 15.7 DAFW, Carpal Tunnel Syndrome averaged 29 DAFW) and that doesn't include the number of days of restricted work or days of transferred position.
A pinched nerve might be considered a more serious injury and aside from the cost of imaging, doctors visits, and physical therapy, a pinched nerve averaged 162 DAFW. If you can afford for employees to be away from their core responsibilities for a month or more, maybe you don't need to worry about ergonomics. For everyone else, it is time you consider an ergonomic STRIKE.
We have developed an ergonomic assessment that focuses on the 6 core areas of preventing workplace injury and fitting the job to the employee. Our Ergonomic STRIKE stands for:
Establishing Standards can help you reduce the likelihood of pain or injury in the workplace before they occur. The employer is responsible for finding a fit for the employee and not the other way around. This is especially true after a workplace injury.
Standards are established proactively or reactively, but either way, there will be a drift away from Standards without Training.
The reality is not “If I’ve heard it once, I’ve heard it a thousand times,” the reality is, “If I’ve heard it a thousand times, I’ve heard it once.”
People will trend back to the middle or an easier path, so continuous training is necessary. Once a skill is learned, it has to be applied routinely for it to meet a level of mastery and ultimately fluency.
Establishing, then sticking to, a Reporting process will foster a culture of excellence that eliminates never reporting, minimizes underreporting, and encourages all concerns to be brought to the table.
When it comes to Identifying hazards, it should be an ongoing process just like the rest of an Ergonomic STRIKE. Specific times to consider hazards should include (at a minimum) when a new work station is being fit for a person, and when new job functions or tasks are initiated.
By establishing effective, efficient, and replicable Key Solutions, you build yourself a process. This process maximizes the benefit of evaluating a hazard and creating valuable workstation fit and job function for your employees.
When it comes to how frequently you Evaluate your ergonomics program, the minimum would be annual. It is better to have a quarterly discussion over any novel solutions that were implemented and the progress or changes of any historic programs. When there is fear of severe injury or you are conducting your first STRIKE monthly, or weekly, evaluations can jump-start the improvement process. More frequent evaluations allow sufficient time to collect data and make expedient course corrections when necessary.
Risk Factors for Workplace Injury
Our Ergonomic STRIKE is an assessment and program that should be ongoing for maximum effect. Standards and Key Solutions should be in place to help address the 9 Most Common Workstation Risk Factors:
1. Repetitive Tasks or Motions
2. Insufficient Rest Breaks
3. Pressure Points (Contact Stress)
4. Forceful Exertions
7. Temperature Extremes
8. Workstation Fit
Training on Standards and their updates, as well as Evaluating your Key Solutions will ensure that you set your employees up for success and fit the job to the employee.
While Reporting and Identifying will set the stage for your employees to trust the process and come to you when a minor problem can be addressed before it results in a significant number of Days Away From Work.
Benefits of Ergonomic Assessments
- Reduce the costs of work injury
- Improve the work quality
- Improve the work efficiency
- Reduce employee days away from work
- Prevent repetitive stress injuries from becoming chronic
- Improve the work safety environment
- Improve employee morale and well being
Types of Ergonomic Assessments
Whether you are in an office or industrial space, rest assured that our physical therapists can provide you with the exact ergonomic assessment you need. Whether your ergonomic STRIKE focuses on
- Computer Workstation Evaluations or Industrial Manufacturing Evaluations,
- Office or Manufacturing Worksite Evaluations, OR
- Pre-or Post-injury worksite evaluations for employees
you can rest assured knowing that FYZICAL has you covered.
Download our Ergonomics WorkBook for more information.