In my research on Ergonomics and Material Handling I came across an item of interest that I felt should be studied further, this is Musculoskeletal Disorders or MSDs, how it affects the individual and the need to implement a regimented study program on the prevention of MSDS along with the ergonomic equipment that could be used to better the Manufacturing Industry to reduce unnecessary costs of injury.
The Ontario Health and Safety Council of Ontario (OHSCO), has such a program containing a step by step procedure to assist in making the workplace a safer environment for the worker. Through an evaluation and implementation of the work cell a study would be conducted and a conclusion would be made on how it is possible to make the work cell ergonomically better and safer for the individual worker.
Contained in the Final Report I have supplied information on how the program works the need for it and a section that includes the numerous pieces of equipment available in the prevention of MSDs.
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We are surrounded by poor examples of ergonomics, from our everyday lives to the workplace. Tasks as simple as carrying a heavy book bag, a woman wearing high heel shoes, athlete's throwing their carry bags of equipment over one shoulder, these activities are ergonomically related, and can eventually lead to serious issues resulting in some form of musculoskeletal disorder. In the workplace similar activities are evident such as: carrying and lifting heavy objects, prolonged periods of sitting or standing, awkward movements of twisting or bending and these too can cause MSDs, repetitive stress injuries (RSIs) or cumulative trauma disorders (CTDs).
Injuries such as these can be prevented by making simple changes in the working environment and these preventable injuries cost companies billions of dollars a year in worker's compensation claims. But, economics isn't the only problem that arises from work related injuries lack of proper ergonomics and ergonomic training leaves companies vulnerable to loss time and poor workmanship. The company and the injured worker must deal with loss of time from work, the worker has loss of irreplaceable family time, and dealing with side effects from medications used by the worker for pain that he/she has incurred, medications can lead to bouts of depression resulting in prolonged time loss.
Further research is required to be able to benefit companies and workers in preventing these issues, the possibilities are endless. The topics discussed in this report will be the ergonomic equipment available to assist in the prevention of work related injuries and the study program available by OHSCO to aid in the reduction of these disabilities.
THE GOALS OF ERGONOMICS
Ergonomics is based on the individual worker, instead of the focus being on safety and production. Ergonomists have broadened their studies to include office staff as well as the everyday individual.
Ergonomics has two main concentrations:
1. Industrial ergonomics which deals with the physical aspects of work such as force, posture, and repetitive movements.
2. Human factor ergonomics is concerned with the mental aspects of work and the decision making process.
Goals of ergonomics include:
• Reduction of work related injury and illness
• The need to contain workers' compensation costs for employers
• Improve productivity
• Improve work quality
• Reduction of absenteeism
Ergonomics include a vast variety of professionals from:
• Engineer Safety Professionals
• Industrial Hygienists
• Physical Therapists
• Occupational Therapists
• Nurse Practitioners
• Occupational Physicians
HOW ERGONOMICS IMPROVES WORK AND SAFETY
Work, injury and illness have been around since ancient man. His concern was to develope the proper tools to complete the tasks at hand in the most comfortable way possible.
There is continuous improvement in the "tools" we use today in relationship to the jobs that we are required to perform. These are divided into 3 areas of concern in attaining a comfortable working situation for the employee such as: physical characteristics, environmental characteristics, and workplace hazards.
1. Physical characteristics of work include:
• Recovery time
• Heavy dynamic exertion
2. Environmental characteristics of work:
Always on Time
Marked to Standard
• Whole body vibration
3. Workplace hazards:
• Physical stress
• Mental stress
• Hours (shifts, overtime)
• Slips and falls
• Exposure hazards (electrical, chemical, biological, radiation)
Industrial Ergonomic Specialists help the employer to provide a safe and productive environment for their employees by analyzing the above needs and instilling the correct equipment to prevent the injuries of MSDs.
DEFINITION OF MSD & ITS RELATIONSHIP TO ERGONOMICS
MSDs are injuries of the musculoskeletal system which include: muscles, tendons and tendon sheathes, nerves, bursa, blood vessels, joints/spinal discs, and ligaments.
The back, shoulders, neck, elbows, hands and wrists are the most common of these injuries and the back is at the top of the list. Hips, knees, legs and feet have also been a source of MSD injury.
These are a few of the diagnoses covered by the term MSD:
• back pain (many specific diagnoses)
• carpal tunnel syndrome (wrist/hand)
• epicondylitis (tennis or golfer's elbow)
• muscle strain
• rotator cuff disorder or syndrome (shoulder)
• tension neck syndrome
• tendonitis (anywhere in the body), and
• tenosynovitis (anywhere in the body).
MSDs are a problem:
• they can affect every aspect of a worker's life as well as their personal life, and
• MSDs are costly.
MSDs are the number one reason for lost time claims reported to the WSIB. Ontario employers have a estimated payout of more than $12 billion in direct and indirect costs from MSDs between 1996 and 2004.
These statistics account for only lost time claims:
• 42% of all lost time claims
• 42% of all lost time claim costs, and
• 50% of all lost time days.
People who continue to work in pain usually take more sick time, are less productive and their work quality can decrease.
WHY MSDS OCCUR IN THE WORKPLACE?
Human beings do many tasks that a machine can not because technology cannot apply the human ability to think, reason, make decisions, feel, precision and judgment but at the same time we are limited on our abilities such as the use of force, pressure and any other strength related applications. A human beings abilities are restricted in many ways, including:
• size and shape
• strength and endurance
• knowledge and experience
• education, and
One individual may be able to perform a job without suffering any issues related to MSDs but that doesn't mean that everyone can perform the same job.
IS MSD PREVENTION GOOD?
The prevention of MSDs helps the employer to be competitive in the marketplace and also aids employers to:
• reduce costs
• increase productivity
• improves quality of their products and services
• and stimulates improvement
Costs of people that are working in pain and discomfort can be much higher than those of absenteeism. An MSD prevention program can assist employers in maintaining their skilled workers especially with an aging workforce because a lot of these workers are irreplaceable.
INVOLVE APPROPRIATE WORKERS
Make sure that workers who do the job are part of the control selection team. Individuals who should be involved in the MSD program control process would be: JHSC members, maintenance, supervisory and engineering staff.
PAINS AND STRAINS CAMPAIGN
The Pains and Strains Campaign was endorsed in January 2006, and contained six proposals:
INCREASE EDUCATION AND AWARENESS OF MSDS AND PREVENTION
• resource sheets completed by the workers and employers to recognize and avert ergonomic related injuries in the workplace.
FOCUS ON MSD PREVENTION IN THE HIGH RISK INITIATIVE
• increasing awareness of ergonomic related injuries and risks by supplying information dealing with high risk workplaces.
ENHANCED TRAINING FOR INSPECTORS ON MSD PREVENTION
• Industrial and health care inspectors received ergonomics training making it easier to recognize ergonomic hazards as part of an inspection and take action.
NEW RESOURCE MATERIALS
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• MSD Prevention Guideline for Ontario and the Resource Manual for the MSD Prevention Guideline for Ontario found at the website (http://www.wsib.on.ca/wsib/wsibsite.nsf/public/PreventMSD)
• The MSD Prevention Toolbox will include information sheets, sample surveys, hazard identification tools and control tactics.
IMPROVED TRACKING OF ERGONOMIC RELATED INSPECTIONS
• The ministry has created and put into service new methods to track inspection activities.
INCREASED ERGONOMIC EXPERTISE
• Anne Duffy (Provincial Ergonomist) joined in October 2006
• Anne leads the Pains and Strains campaign
On February 28, 2007, Labour Minister Steve Peters announced the release of the Occupational Health and Safety Council of Ontario's (OHSCO) Musculoskeletal Disorder (MSD) Prevention Guideline for Ontario.
Minister Peters, right, operates a manual wire cutter, as Steve Mahoney (left), Chair of the WSIB and Steve Will, General Manager of the Pulp and Paper Health and Safety Association, watch.
Minister Peters operates the new battery powered wire cutter. Michael Russo (far left) and Nadine Brown (not pictured), Occupational and Public Health students at Ryerson University, assist Minister Peters.
BEST AND PREFERRED WORK ZONE
Work is safest when lifting and reaching is done in a controlled manner. Performing out of the work zones results in unnatural posture and can lead to injury. It is important to carry out heavy lifting in the best work zone.
BEST WORK ZONE
• As far forward as your wrist when you hold your arm slightly bent
• As wide as the shoulders
• Upper level at about heart height
• Lower level at about waist height
PREFERRED WORK ZONE
• As far forward as your hand when you hold your arm out straight
• A foot on either side of the shoulders
• Upper level at shoulder height
• Lower level at tip of fingers with hands held at the side
Three leading lifting devices that endorse worker safety and efficiency are pallet positioners, workstation cranes and vacuum handling systems.
Providing ergonomic equipment to make the work easier has become important to companies as they look for ways to effectively produce and at the same time protect the worker form injury. The proper use of these devices can maintain the balance between safety and productivity. The proper solution is usually determined by combining the solution with the proper use.
Positioning devices are used where movement of a load or worker is required.
Pallet positioners respond to the weight of a load which keeps a pallet at a height to minimizes worker bending and straining.
Lift tables are either hydraulic or pneumatic and minimizes the amount of lifting required by an operator by controlling the height of the load. It works similar to the device in the cafeteria that keeps the stack of plates level to the counter. A lift table adjusts the height of the load, an adjustable work platforms adjust the height of the worker.
Workstation Cranes, like lift tables, move a load from the bottom up and are used when a load has to be lifted and moved from above due to insufficient space.
Workstation cranes, like this free standing jib crane, are used when a load has to be lifted and moved from above.
There is a vast number of workstation cranes, but most are used in manufacturing. Workstation cranes may be used in shipping and receiving or, in combination with vacuum handling devices.
These cranes can handle loads from 150 to 4,000 pounds and operates on a enclosed tracks made of steel or aluminum. Enclosed track prevents the surface from becoming dirty and therefore it is easier for an operator to push the load because this is done manually.
Three types of cranes are used at workstations.
• Floor supported, or free standing, cranes
• Ceiling mounted bridge cranes
• Jib cranes
VACUUM LIFTERS AND MANIPULATORS
Vacuum lifters use a vacuum of air to grip and lift material and there are two types of these lift systems.
• hard vacuum
• vacuum lift tube technology, combining gripping and lifting.
The larger the tube, or the more tubes you have, the more weight you can lift they can handle loads of 1,000 pounds, but 300 to 500 pounds are most common.
Manipulators and extenders duplicate an operators' reach moving up to 1,000 pounds. They are used extensively in the automotive industry. This machinery only requires a pound or two of force to move a 150 pound object.
Vacuum assist devices, allow a worker to quickly move boxes, pails, drums or sheets of material.
This could prove to be a billion dollar improvement to industry and I recommend the implementation of such a program and the installation of proper equipment to maintain productivity, contain lost time injury and cost incurred by MSDs. The benefits of such a program are limitless.
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