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Did you know that sprains and strains are the leading injury category in the manufacturing environment? It’s true.
Not only that, but according to workers’ compensation data, strains are the top accident category in manufacturing by claims frequency and severity. The data tells us that sprains and strains are common and costly in industry today. They are costly (and unacceptable) for businesses, they are costly (and painful) for workers and they are costly (and frustrating) for safety professionals.
If this situation rings true at your company, it’s time to make a decision to take proactive steps to take on these common and costly problems.
You’ll be happy to hear that sprains and strains are preventable in every workplace. It’s a simple matter of identifying risk factors and systematically implementing control measures. The hard part is deciding to reduce all risk factors, gaining 100 percent leadership commitment and instituting a process that persists over the course of time.
The Causes of Sprains and Strains
Sprains and strains can happen suddenly or develop over the course of days, weeks or months. When a worker is exposed to causative risk factors, they are more likely to develop a sprain or strain. There are two general categories of risk factors: ergonomic (workplace) risk factors and individual risk factors.
Ergonomic risk factors include:
Individual risk factors include:
A Proactive Approach to Sprains and Strains in the Workplace
Prevention is, of course, better than treatment. Sprains and strains are a painful and unnecessary experience that we want to prevent from happening. To do that, you need a comprehensive prevention process to systematically identify and remove the risk factors present in your workplace and workforce through the use of controls.
There are two primary types of controls: ergonomic controls to reduce or remove ergonomic risk factors and individual controls to reduce or remove individual risk factors.
Ergonomic controls include:
Individual controls include:
A Partnership Between Employers and Employees
The strategy outlined above is a simple one—identify and control all contributing risk factors.
Putting ergonomic controls in place is part of the company’s responsibility to provide a safe workplace for its people. In many cases, individual controls fall under the individual responsibility of the worker to keep his or her body fit for work and use proper work practices.
The most successful companies in preventing sprains and strains in a manufacturing environment have created a culture of safety, health and wellness. This culture is the result of each side of this partnership for prevention (the company and individual workers) taking responsibility for their role.
Companies take responsibility for providing a workplace within the capabilities and limitations of workers through a systematic ergonomics improvement process and by instituting ergonomic design standards for new work tasks and processes.
Workers take responsibility for keeping their bodies fit for the work they have chosen to do and to practice proper work practices and technique.
Mark Middlesworth is the president and owner of Ergonomics Plus, a workplace wellness and ergonomic consulting service based in Sweetser, Ind.Copyright 2014 © Ergonomics Plus. All rights reserved.
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