Ergonomic considerations and accommodations are one key, yet often neglected, component of worksite safety. Ergonomics, or the science of fitting workplace conditions and job demands to the worker rather than the other way around, has become more and more of a concern for the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).
Currently, more than 600,000 Americans have suffered serious injuries due to over exertion or repetitive on-the-job motions. That’s 600,000 valuable employees missing work, 600,000 using up their health insurance and 600,000 potentially claiming disability or taking legal action against their workplace for on-the-job injury. In the end, these musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) account for 34% of lost workdays and directly cost the organization an estimated $20 billion.
For healthcare workers in particular, ergonomic risks have increased due to the prevalence of more severely ill patients populating hospitals and nursing homes. The very nature of healthcare workers’ jobs forces them into awkward positions, just to deliver the same level of care to heavier or more ill and immobile patients. However, happily solutions have slowly begun to filter into facility workers’ everyday practices and on-the-job tools that help to either reduce or eliminate ergonomic distress and its dire, long-term repercussions.
First, in order to intercept or correct improper ergonomics, it is important for facility managers to:
- Recognize workplace risk factors and understand general methods for controlling them
- Identify the signs and symptoms of ergonomic disorders associated with your site’s risk factors
- Become familiar with your healthcare facility’s medical procedures
- Know your facility’s process for and role in addressing and controlling risk factors
- Master your facility’s procedures for reporting risk factors and ergonomic disorders, including who should receive the reports
These are the first steps to creating a standardized program of ergonomic work safety assurance. Establishing a baseline control measure and related job analysis will help healthcare workers and managers by properly outlining how to evaluate ergonomic risk in the workplace. This includes identifying departments, areas and jobs with risk factors through a records review. Once facility leadership have developed a standard method for review and solution discovery, new and more ergonomically correct methods of and tools for job performance may be developed and mandated for workers across the board. Additionally, workers may now begin understanding how to recognize problems as they go about their typical workday. From here, they may begin developing solutions to problems as they encounter them, instead of waiting for issues to create a more serious, negative impact down the line.
For more information on specific worksite safety guidelines, please contact the facility management experts at Vanguard Resources.