Ergonomics continues to be an issue that affects millions of workers, particularly in the healthcare profession, despite the fact that ergonomic injuries are the most expensive and easiest to prevent. If you don’t believe it, just look at the statistics.
Musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) are the most common injury due to poor ergonomics, and healthcare workers are particularly susceptible. In 2007, nursing aides, orderlies and attendants ranked second only to laborers and material workers in the number of MSD cases, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics . This demographic also had a MSD rate of 252 cases per 10,000 workers, more than seven times the national MSD average for all occupations.
Here are a few improvements you should consider to improve your facility’s ergonomics program:
- Sit/stand workstations: Although they are bit pricier than a typical desk or table, you could potentially save thousands in worker compensation costs. Sit/stand workstations feature a bi-level table and sit/stand stools with a strong spring that allows the employee to lean on the stool while standing or sit firmly on the stool when there is a need to be seated.
- Choosing pipettes: Similar to workstations, pipettes are often based solely on price, but choosing the wrong pipette can result in repetitive strain injuries to the hand and wrist. When purchasing pipettes look for newer trigger systems that require less force to activate. Shorter pipettes will decrease hand elevation and awkward postures. Most importantly, simply make sure the instruments fits comfortably in your hand.
- Lift with your legs, not your back: It’s something everyone knows, but, for some reason, few actually practice. Remind staff members through training, and signs where employees may be doing heavy lifting.
- Provide variety during tasks: By adjusting working postures, or setting up a system of task rotation, employees will not be stuck in one position for a long period of time. Even short breaks can help as well.
- Think about how you set up workstations: Make tools, specimens, and instruments easy to reach to avoid bending and twisting. Eliminating clutter also helps reduce strained movements.
- Encourage exercise: This is an easy and inexpensive way to help your employees avoid injury. People who exercise regularly increase range of motion in their joints.
For more information one of the best resources for ergonomics tips is OSHA’s eTool , which features tools and checklists for safety officers.
Also, check out Healthcare Ergonomics Training Video: A Guide to OSHA Standards  for a more information on requirements and policy suggestions.