Don’t Just Sit There – National Safety Month 2017

June is National Safety Month, and Stonehouse Signs, as a founding member of the National Safety Council (NSC,) encourages all employers and employees to participate by discussing the weekly safety topics the NSC has chosen to highlight. This week’s topic is Don’t Just Sit There, focused on Ergonomics. Businesses and other organizations are welcome to use this article as a conversation tool to spur an important safety discussion with their employees.

Look for weekly articles from Stonehouse Signs highlighting the National Safety Month weekly topics, or follow us on FacebookLinkedIn, Twitter and Google + for National Safety Month tips all month long.

No matter what your work duties require – sitting, standing, stretching, lifting or more – proper ergonomics is the key to preventing musculoskeletal injuries, which one of two adults will deal with in their lifetime.

So what is ergonomics? Simply put, it is the process of analyzing a worker’s job responsibilities and implementing changes or adjustments to reduce the amount of stress put on their body. It sounds easy enough, but the reality is poor ergonomics contribute to musculoskeletal injuries, which accounted for 33 percent of all work related illness and injury cases in 2013, or one million total cases, costing an estimated $213 billion in direct and indirect costs. The Center for Disease Control has recognized musculoskeletal injuries as a persistent workplace issue, and suggests employers “design the job to take account of the capabilities and limitations of the workforce” and also use “administrative controls” such as policies, procedures and best practices to help prevent musculoskeletal injuries. 

While the exact implementation of proper ergonomics depends on what the worker’s job entails and will vary from person to person, lifting and desk work are two of many areas that are frequently cited as ergonomic problem areas.

According to the National Safety Council (NSC,) an estimated 25 percent of all occupational injuries were due to “manual-handling injuries” that led to sprains, strains, cuts, bruises and more, and frequently contributed to back injuries. They also state that there is no “sure-fire” rule for safe lifting, although there are some recommended best practices (and methods to avoid) that include:

  • Stonehouse Signs Safe Lifting Signs Keep a neutral spine when lifting.
  • Lift with your legs, not your back.
  • Don’t twist, bend backwards, or lift an item above your shoulders.
  • Don’t lift items heavier than you are able. Ask for and use the assistance of a coworker or use an assistance tool like a dolly if needed.
  • Carry items close to your body at about belly button level and make sure to keep the item balanced.
  • Set down your items with the same care and posture as you picked them up with.

The NSC also states that regular reminders and re-education of proper lifting techniques are needed to prevent injuries, as workers often revert back to previous lifting habits if not periodically reminded.

Desk work is another ergonomic area of concern. Workers that spend the majority of their day at a desks with poor ergonomics often report carpal tunnel syndrome, back injuries, neck injuries and more. Ergonomics in this area are definitely not a one-size-fits-all approach, and factors such as a worker’s height, weight, arm/leg length and more need to be factored into the proper ergonomic desk set-up. Most commonly, an ergonomic expert will check the following areas to ensure a proper ergonomic desk:

  • Chair – ensure proper back/lumbar support, ensure height is proper so that the feet are flat on the ground or a footrest without putting too much pressure on the legs, and ensure proper arm support.
  • Mouse and Keyboard – at about elbow height, and placed so that the worker doesn’t have to overly reach or extend, or rest their wrist on the edge of their workstation when using. Using an ergonomic keyboard and mouse can also be helpful.  
  • Monitor – place at approximately an arm’s length from the worker, and ensure the top of the screen is approximately eye level and slightly tilted upward.
  • Lighting – ensure the workspace has sufficient, yet not-too-bright lighting with minimal screen glare.
  • Breaks - train workers to take short breaks to give both their body and eyes a break. A good guideline is to look away from screens every 15-30 minutes, stand up/stretch/walk every 30-60 minutes, and take a break following any heavy activity such as intense typing. 

Of course, there are many more ergonomic factors to consider depending on the specific desk setup and job responsibilities of a worker, so again proper evaluation and regular reinforcement of best practices is key to preventing injuries. 

We hope our information on ergonomics will help keep your workers safe and injury-free! This is the last week of National Safety Month 2017, and we hope you had some meaningful and relevant safety discussions with your workers that will lead to a safer workplace year round. If you missed any of the National Safety Month topics, in week one we discussed Stand Up To Falls; week two we discussed Recharge To Be In Charge (addressing fatigue); and week three we discussed Prepare For Active Shooters. Here’s to safer workplaces in 2017!

Since its founding in 1863, Stonehouse Signs has produced high-quality visual communications solutions for various industries and the government. The company specializes in custom products for safety, information and accident prevention, and manufactures a full line of safety signs and facility signssafety tags, vinyl safety decals, and custom magnetic whiteboards designed for extended outdoor life, harsh environments and demanding applications. For more information contact Stonehouse Signs today.

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