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ASSE Michigan Members Note Businesses Can Save Significantly Through Effective Ergo Programs

Posted in on Mon, Jun 6, 2011

American Society of Safety Engineers News,  Protecting people, property and the environment since 1911

For Immediate Release                                                                          Contact:  Diane Hurns, 847-768-3413

DETROIT, MI  (June 6, 2011)Workplace musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) are one of the most significant occupational safety and health problems in the U.S., according to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH). To assist businesses and workers in Michigan address this issue and help prevent injuries and illnesses, the American Society of Safety Engineers’ (ASSE) Ergonomics Branch is providing tips to help reduce MSDs or cumulative trauma disorders (CTD)  at work and at home.

“As our economy rebounds we urge businesses to continue to work smart to reduce costs,” ASSE President Darryl C. Hill, Ph.D., CSP, of Michigan, said today. “By developing and implementing effective work safety systems and programs at work, employers can not only save in health care, workers compensation insurance, business disruption costs, turnover, and more, they can also see their business improve in increased production, and a positive reputation — important for consumers, vendors and customers. Developing and implementing a good ergonomic program should be part of the plan.” 

While a common cause of work MSDs is long or frequent exposure to awkward posture and forces to joints of the body when performing work tasks, the control is good ergonomic design of the workplace.  The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) describe occupational ergonomics as the science of designing workplace conditions and job demands to fit the capabilities of the working population.   

ASSE represents close to 34,000 occupational safety, health and environmental professional members located worldwide and its Ergonomics Branch is active in working to reduce ergonomic injuries. According to the Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), there was an overall decline in MSD cases by nine percent in 2009. The BLS reported the professions most likely to be affected by MSDs are laborers, freight, stock and material movers, truck drivers, nursing aides, orderlies, and attendants. The BLS also notes that in 2009 MSD cases accounted for 28 percent of all workplace injuries and illnesses in the U.S. with most injuries involving the back, the shoulder and the abdomen. Many suffering ergonomic injuries in 2009 were away from work anywhere from seven to 22 days.

“It pays to address the problem before it occurs,” Hill said.

ASSE Ergonomics Branch Chair Jeremy Chingo-Harris, CSP, of Racine, WI, said, “We look at effective ergonomics programs as a cost saving opportunity and the right thing to do for employees.  Injuries cost companies and industries millions of dollars every year in direct and hidden costs.  Companies need to start asking if they can afford the cost of not incorporating ergonomic practices into their operations. Also, current OSHA regulations do not have a specific standard addressing ergonomics but maintains the ability to cite a company for poor ergonomics under the general duty clause.”

The application of good ergonomic design of the workplace can improve productivity, help avoid illness and injury risks, and, lead to increased satisfaction among the workforce. The scope of ergonomics is very broad, but mainly refers to assessing work-related factors that may pose a risk of MSDs and recommendations to alleviate them. Examples of these risk factors are found in jobs requiring repetitive, forceful, or prolonged exertions of the hands such as frequent heavy lifting, pushing, pulling, or carrying of heavy objects; and, prolonged awkward postures. Vibration and cold may add risk to these work conditions, according to OSHA.  Reducing exposures to any one or all of these risk factors will help reduce the risk of injury to employees.

ASSE Ergonomics Branch member Lawrence  J. Schulze, PhD, P.E., CPE, of Houston, TX, noted there is no one-size-fits all approach to ergonomics, “However, in addition to these tips, it is key to train your employees in ergonomics to provide them with the skills, knowledge, abilities and tools aimed at reducing ergonomic injuries.”

The ASSE Ergonomics Branch’s free “Ergonomics Tip Sheet” for the workplace and home office is available at http://www.asse.org/practicespecialties/ergonomics/ergo_tip_sheet.php . Go to http://www.asse.org/practicespecialties/ergonomics/techlinks.php  or to http://www.asse.org/practicespecialties/ergonomics/docs/048_050_BPEG_1010Z.pdf for a complimentary copy of the article “Ergonomics Investment” from the ASSE Professional Safety journal.

 ASSE Ergonomic Branch member Cynthia L. Roth, CEO of ETC, said. “We urge employers now to develop and implement effective ergonomic systems to reduce those injuries such as back, arm, wrist and neck injuries usually caused by repetitive motion. An initial investment in effective ergonomic programs removes barriers to quality, productivity and human performance by fitting products, tasks, and environments to people, reduces the incidence of injuries and costs.”

Founded in 1911, the 100-year-old Des Plaines, IL-based ASSE is the oldest safety society and has nearly 34,000 occupational safety, health and environmental professional members who lead, manage, supervise, research and consult on safety, health, transportation and environmental issues in all industries, government, labor, health care and education. For more information please go to www.asse.org/newsroom or to the ASSE Ergonomics Branch at http://www.asse.org/practicespecialties/ergonomics/.

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