Reducing Worksite Injuries

 

What is a WMSD?

A musculoskeletal disorder (MSD) is an injury or disorder of the muscles, nerves, tendons, joints, cartilage or spinal discs. Work-related MSDs are conditions in which the work environment and performance of work contribute significantly to the condition, and/or the condition is made worse or persists longer due to work conditions. Examples of workplace conditions that may lead to WMSDs include routine lifting of heavy objects, daily exposure to whole body vibration, routine overhead work, work with the neck in a chronic flexion position (head bent forward) or performing repetitive forceful tasks.

Examples of MSDs are sprains, tears, back pain, carpal tunnel syndrome, arthritis and hernia. MSDs are associated with high costs to employers such as absenteeism and lost productivity, as well as increased health care, disability and workers’ compensation costs. In addition, many of these conditions are or can become chronic, further escalating the costs to employers.

Workplace Strategies

There are a variety of strategies employers can implement to reduce WMSDs in their workplace. They may not all make sense for your business, but consider the following ideas to help minimize the impact of WMSDs and prevent them altogether.

  • Examine your workplace and look for ways to reduce the chance of injury. For instance, you may be able to change the way materials, parts and products are transported in order to relieve burden on employees. Also consider altering the layout of workstations to be more ergonomic.
  • Promote healthy lifestyles, including physical activity and weight management. Improving physical health and maintaining a healthy weight can reduce pain for individuals with arthritis and back problems, and can help employees prevent these and other MSDs.
  • Provide training to management and workers regarding risks for workplace injuries, including:          
    • Training on how to reduce and avoid injuries
    • Training to help management and workers recognize potential workplace risks for MSDs and mitigate those risks
    • Raising awareness of WMSDs among employees and management, as well as educating employees to recognize a potential injury and know when to seek medical evaluation
  • Make administrative changes as they make sense in your workplace to reduce the risk of injuries. These may include reducing shift length, limiting overtime, scheduling more breaks for rest and recovery, rotating workers through jobs that are physically taxing and instituting pre-shift stretching sessions.
  • Develop policies that support a corporate culture of good health, safety and injury management, such as:
  • Required use of personal protective equipment (PPE), plus training on how to properly use it
  • Ergonomic workplace initiatives
  • Workplace safety programs
  • Disability management policies
  • Return-to-work programs
  • Encourage early reporting of WMSDs by employees, and prompt evaluation by health care providers. Many workplaces stress early reporting for injuries, but employees may understand that to mean only sudden injuries, like accidents, slips and falls. Even though WMSDs occur over time, employees should still report them and get evaluated early—employee education can help promote this practice in your workplace.
  • Educate employees on workers’ compensation and disability benefits, including protections and accommodations offered by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

 

Source: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention 


Wellness Environment Assessment

Completing an environment assessment helps you identify your workplace wellness program’s strengths and any areas in need of improvement. This assessment can help your wellness team recommend changes to make your workplace more supportive of healthy behaviors. You may find some of the actions for supporting healthy behaviors are easy to do and others may not be feasible at your business. Assessment results can also be used as a baseline measure for future evaluation.

 

Who should do the assessment?

Identify a workgroup of at least four to five people who will be responsible for completing the wellness environment assessment. This may be a subset of your workplace wellness workgroup. Forming a diverse group from all areas and levels of your organization is important for meaningful assessment and successful planning and implementation. Participants could be HR professionals, employees from various departments, administrators or supervisors.

 

When should the assessment be done?

Use the assessment as a starting point for your wellness initiative. Once you have completed the assessment, determine which areas the workgroup will focus on, such as healthy eating, physical activity or smoking cessation.

Establish a time for the workgroup to meet, so members can regularly monitor program progress. Also, determine a schedule for annual assessments, so that assessments can serve as a tool for continuous improvement and accountability over time.

 

Components of a Wellness Environment Assessment

Part 1 – Wellness Assessment Checklist

Complete a worksite wellness assessment checklist to determine which wellness components are currently in place and identify areas for improvement. The assessment can be done by the full workgroup, or you may want to assign a few key personnel (such as the HR lead or workgroup coordinator) to do a preliminary scan. Ask The Unland Companies for a sample wellness assessment checklist or create your own.

Assessment checklists should include the following items:

  • Categories—Consider using these six major categories: general health, physical activity, nutrition, health screening, tobacco use and emergency response. Each category should include several questions that address what initiatives you currently have in place at your workplace.
  • Current Status—List whether you have the component (“Yes”), are in the process of instituting the component or planning for the component (“In Process”), or do not have the component (“No”). At the end of each category, subtotal the number in each column and then total all of the categories at the end of the checklist to get an overview of where your worksite wellness program currently rates.
  • Potential Priorities—Use the assessment results to identify what components you want to focus on that are either currently in process or do not yet exist.

Part 2: Employee Input

In addition, you should conduct an employee survey to get a better understanding of your employees’ current health habits and interest areas. The survey should be voluntary and anonymous to encourage employees to be honest about their health needs.

The survey can be tailored to your business and can be done in paper form, through online survey tools or by a third party. You can create your own employee survey or ask The Unland Companies for the Workplace Wellness Needs and Interest Survey to help get you started.

You should also consider engaging employees in focus groups or informal interviews to gather information on their wants and needs. This can be done either before or after the survey, or in place of the survey if you think focus groups or informal interviews would be more effective.  Consider offering incentives or prizes to employees who complete the survey.

Whatever method you use to gather information, make it as easy as possible for employees to complete and submit the information so you can gain valuable insight into how to improve your workplace wellness program and reduce your company’s health care expenses.


OSHA Final Rule on Slips, Trips and Fall Protection 

On Nov. 18, 2016, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) published a final rule to update standards regarding walking-working surfaces and personal protective equipment (PPE). The final rule becomes effective on Jan. 17, 2017; however, OSHA is allowing additional time for employers to comply with certain standards, including:

  • Employee training on fall and equipment hazards;
  • Certification of anchorages;
  • Equipping existing fixed ladders with cages, wells, safety systems or personal fall arrest systems; and
  • Equipping new fixed ladders with safety systems or personal fall arrest systems.

The final rule increases consistency between the general and construction industry fall protection standards and allows employers to choose the system that best works for them.

ACTION STEPS

Employers should become familiar with the final rule and evaluate whether they need to make any changes to their policies, procedures, training programs and equipment to comply with the final rule by the compliance deadlines specified in the table on Page 3.

General Requirements

The final rule applies to all general industry workplaces and covers all walking-working surfaces, unless an exemption applies. The final rule updates existing general industry requirements for walking-working surfaces. A walking-working surface is “any horizontal or vertical surface on or through which an employee walks, works or gains access to a workplace location.”

The new standards for walking-working surfaces address:

Surface conditions and housekeeping: Employers must maintain walking-working surfaces in clean and dry conditions (to the extent that this is feasible). These surfaces must also be kept clear of hazards posed by sharp or protruding objects, loose boards, corrosion, leaks, spills, snow and ice.

Application of loads: Employers must ensure that each walking-working surface can support the maximum intended load for it.

Access to and egress: Employers must provide, and ensure that each employee uses, a safe means of access and egress to and from walking-working surfaces.

Inspection, maintenance and repair: Employers must inspect walking-working surfaces regularly, as necessary, to ensure they are in good maintenance and condition. If any hazard is identified during inspection, the hazard must be addressed before an employee uses the walking-working surface again. If immediate repair is not possible, the surface must be guarded to prevent employees from using it until it is repaired. A qualified person must perform or supervise the repair of any hazard that compromises the structural integrity of the surface.

Additional standards apply to specific walking-working surfaces, including ladders, step bolts and manhole steps, stairways, dockboards, and scaffold and rope descent systems.

Fall Protection Systems

The final rule also indicates that employers must ensure that workers have fall and falling object protection in certain areas and during certain operations or activities. Unless stated otherwise, this protection must comply with the criteria and work practices set forth in 29 CFR § 1910.29.

For fall protection, the rule establishes the types of fall protection systems that employers must use to protect their employees, but allows employers to select (among the prescribed systems) the system that works best for them. The final rule also specifies the criteria these systems must meet to be in compliance with OSHA regulations.

The list of fall protection systems includes:

  • Guardrails
  • Safety nets
  • Personal fall protection
  • Personal fall arrest
  • Travel restraint
  • Ladder safety
  • Positioning
  • Handrails
  • Use of designated areas

Falling Object Protection Systems

The final rule also requires employers to protect their employees from being struck by falling objects. Some of these requirements include the mandatory use of head protection gear that meets the requirements of 29 CFR part 1910, subpart I.

In addition, employers must protect their employees by doing at least one of the following:

*    Erect toeboards, screens or guardrail systems to prevent objects from falling to a lower level;

*    Erect canopy structures and keep potential falling objects far enough from an edge, hole or opening to prevent these objects from falling to a lower level; or

*    Barricade the area into which objects could fall, prohibit workers from entering the barricaded area and keep objects far enough from the edge or opening to prevent them from falling to the lower level.

Training Requirements

The final rule adds training requirements for employers. When designing these training requirements, OSHA relied heavily on the training requirements that currently exist for the fall protection standard in the construction industry.

While the training employers provide to their employees under the new rule is not required to be site-specific, it does need to address the hazards to which employee may be exposed at their workplace.

The training requirement under the final rule becomes effective on May 17, 2017. To comply with training requirements, employers must ensure that the training is provided by a qualified person.

At a minimum, the training must include:

*    The nature of the fall hazards in the work area and how to recognize them;

*    The procedures employees must follow to minimize those hazards;

*    The correct procedures for installing, inspecting, operating, maintaining and disassembling the personal fall protection systems that the employees use; and

*    The correct use of personal fall protection systems and equipment, including, but not limited to, proper hookup, anchoring and tie-off techniques, and the methods of equipment inspection and storage, as specified by the manufacturer.

Compliance Schedule

Although the final rule becomes effective on Jan. 17, 2017, OSHA is extending compliance deadlines for the following requirements, as shown in the table below:

Standard

Compliance Date

 

Standard

Compliance Date

Employee training

May 17, 2017

 

Equipping new fixed ladders with safety systems or personal fall arrest systems

Nov. 19, 2018

Certification of anchorages

Nov. 20, 2017

 

Equipping existing fixed ladders with cages, wells, safety systems or personal fall arrest systems

Nov. 19, 2018

 

Equipping all fixed ladders with a ladder safety system or personal fall arrest system

Nov. 18, 2036

 


How the 2016 Election Could Affect Health Care

The 2016 presidential election could bring significant changes to the U.S. health care system. Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump have both campaigned on promises to control health care spending and reduce out-of-pocket expenses for consumers.

The chart below provides a brief overview of each candidate’s health care platform, so you can better understand how Clinton or Trump may affect the employee benefits landscape if elected into office.


Issue


Hillary Clinton (D)


Donald Trump (R)

The Affordable Care Act (ACA)

Wants to expand the ACA

Wants to repeal the ACA

Cadillac tax

Would repeal the Cadillac tax

Would repeal the Cadillac tax

Prescription drugs

Wants to eliminate tax breaks pharmaceutical companies get for direct-to-consumer advertising and allow consumers to import drugs from other countries (like Canada)

Calls for a free market for prescription drugs and supports allowing consumers to import drugs from other countries that regulate prices

Undocumented immigrants’ access to coverage

Would allow undocumented immigrants to buy insurance through the Marketplace

Wants would-be immigrants to prove they can pay for their own health care

Public option

Supports an option that allows people as young as 55 to buy Medicare coverage

Does not appear to support a public option at this time


Issue


Hillary Clinton (D)


Donald Trump (R)

Medicare

Supports allowing Medicare to negotiate lower drug prices and cap out-of-pocket costs for those with chronic health problems

Against cuts to Medicare and wants to grow the economy to preserve the future of the program

Coverage across state lines

Open to the issue, but the topic isn’t currently part of her party’s platform

Supports allowing the sale of health insurance across state lines and allowing individuals to deduct health insurance premiums from their taxes

Price transparency and consumer driven health plans

Would expand pricing disclosure requirements for doctors and hospitals and calls for an end to “surprise” billing

Would encourage the use of tax-free health savings accounts and supports calls for greater price transparency

Medicaid

Would allow states that sign up for Medicaid expansion to receive a 100 percent federal match for the first three years

Wants states to get their funding through block grants

 

Like any election, how and if these platforms would be achieved once one of the candidates is in office remains to be seen. By being aware of where each candidate stands, though, you can better understand how this election could impact the employee benefits industry and prepare your business for any potential changes.


Calorie Counter 

If you’re trying to shrink your waistline by managing the number of calories you consume, try this tool.

Visit www.freedieting.com/tools/calorie_calculator.htm and enter your height, weight, gender, age and weekly activity level. Then, the calorie counter will provide you with the following information:

  • • Recommendation of the daily caloric intake that you should have to maintain, lose or gain weight. 

  • • If you want to lose weight, simply enter your desired weight into the equation and the counter will tell you how many calories to consume daily to reach your goal weight.

  • • Click on the “More Calculators” button to access other related calculators.


Safe Lifting Techniques

 

Lifting is a common activity in the workplace, and it is often forgotten that there are proper techniques that need to be followed to avoid injury. In fact, lower back injuries are the most common work-related injury cited by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). 

Safe Lifting Basics

Safe lifting plays an important role in keeping your back healthy and you safe. There are safe lifting techniques that take strain off the low back area. They include:

  • Look over the load. Decide if you can handle it alone or if you need assistance. When in doubt, ask for help. Moving an object that is too heavy or bulky can cause severe injury.
  • Clear away any potential obstacles before beginning to carry the object.
  • Support and propel the object while carrying it; your grip should be firm. Carrying objects will change your balance. To keep this change of balance to a minimum, keep the load close to your body and to your normal center of gravity, between the legs and shoulders.
  • Use good foot positioning. Your feet should be shoulder width apart, with one foot beside and the other foot behind the object that you are going to lift. This allows you to use the full power of your leg muscles. Leg muscles are stronger and more powerful than back muscles, so let your legs do the work.
  • Bend your knees. Bending over at the waist to reach for the object you want to lift puts strain on your back, shoulder and neck muscles.
  • Keep your arms and elbows as close to your body as you can while lifting. If you have to stretch your arms out completely away from your body, ask for assistance with the lift.
  • Use your feet to change direction. Don’t twist your body. Twisting your body adds to the stress of the lift and affects your balance.
  • To lower the object, bend your knees as you did to pick it up. To place the load on a bench or shelf, set it on the edge and slide it into position. Make sure your hands and feet are clear when lowering the load.

Safe lifting of heavy objects requires training and practice. And when equipment is available, it should be used to lift and carry heavy objects. Loaders, forklifts and hoists are designed for this purpose.

Team Lifting

When others are helping you lift, teamwork is very important. If you’re going to be carrying the load to another location, both of you should coordinate this prior to lifting the object. Check the route and clearance. One worker needs to be in a position to observe and direct the other. Lifting and lowering should be done in unison. Don’t let the load drop suddenly without warning your partner. 

Your Safety is Important

Proper lifting methods protect against injury and makes continued work much easier. It is important to think about what you are going to do before lifting an object—over time, these safe lifting techniques will become habit. Contact your supervisor if you have any questions or concerns regarding safe lifting techniques. 

 


 

 

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