The standard became effective on Jan. The new rule generally contained requirements for most non-construction employers to identify and abate MSDs. On March 20, , President George W. Bush —shortly after taking office — signed Senate Joint Resolution 6, which repealed the new standard. Since the repeal, OSHA has addressed ergonomics in a number of ways, including issuing guidelines for various industries.
OSHA guidelines contain recommendations, best practices and lessons learned for specific industries. In other words, guidelines are advisory and do not create new employer obligations. These guidelines include such industries as retail grocery stores, shipyards, nursing homes, foundries, beverage distribution, poultry processing and meatpacking plants. More recent data in from the Bureau of Labor Statistics BLS shows that ergonomics remains a costly issue for businesses.
OSHA and Ergonomics: The Past, Present and Future
BLS data shows that these types of injuries account for one-third of days-away-from-work cases. The BLS data further explains that employees suffering from ergonomics-related injuries required more time off the job than those with other types of workplace injuries and illnesses a median of 11 days versus eight days. OSHA also has made it clear that even in the absence of a specific industry guideline, employers still can be cited for a violation of the General Duty Clause, Section 5 a 1 , which generally requires employers to keep workplaces free from recognized serious hazards including ergonomic hazards.
In deciding whether a General Duty citation should be issued with respect to ergonomics, OSHA will review the following factors: 1 whether an ergonomic hazard exists; 2 whether that hazard is recognized; 3 whether the hazard is causing, or likely to cause, serious physical harm to employees; and 4 whether a feasible means exists to reduce the hazard. OSHA also specifically has noted that it will not focus on enforcement efforts against employers who are making a good faith effort to reduce ergonomic hazards.
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Thus, all employers — but specifically those in high-risk industries such as construction, food processing, firefighting, office jobs, healthcare, transportation and warehousing — should consider implementing an ergonomic process. The section on Common Workplace Motions discusses the details of healthy and unhealthy reach zones see page When designing products, consider how much individuals will have to reach in order to minimize awkward or unhealthy positions.
Moving Users will move around in their environment to fi le papers, answer a phone, or stretch. An occasional break from sitting is encouraged because it helps to stimulate muscles, and increases bloodflow, which decreases fatigue. The space in a cubicle or desk area should allow the chair to move around easily. Also, a wheelchair may need to turn around or move in the office space, requiring a 60" diameter turning radius and at least 36" of passage width. Effect of the problem Ergonomists have examined a number of jobs where there have been a high incidence of WMSD's, and have found some common elements present in each of these jobs which are associated with these injuries.
These elements are called risk factors, because exposure to them increases the chance that a worker will become injured.
Without time for rest and recovery, repetition can lead to injury. This lack of movement reduces circulation and causes muscle tension, which can contribute to or aggravate an injury. Sustained exertions are a type of static loading where force is applied continuously for long periods of time. Harsh, excessively bright fluorescent lighting can cause eye strain, especially when it creates glare on computer monitors. Too little lighting can also result in eye strain when working with paper documents, as well as a "gloomy" atmosphere in which to work.
Windows can cause lighting and glare problems as well, although most employees prefer to have natural light and a view, given the choice. Direct sunlight can create light levels many times brighter than what is needed for office work, however. Appropriate light levels Light levels for computer use should be lower than those for reading from paper documents. The difference is due to the fact that computer monitors give off their own light, while paper depends on reflected light to be legible.
In order to prevent eye strain at the computer, it is 8. A window or other bright light source in the field of vision behind or to the side of the monitor can be just as annoying as glare reflecting off of the monitor itself. Testing light levels While you could measure light levels in your office using a photographer's light meter, a simpler method is to survey employees in the area as to whether the lighting is too bright, too dim, or just right. A quick test to see if overhead lights are too bright is to shade your eyes by placing your hand above them, as if searching for something at a distance.
If you can feel your eyes relax, then the lighting is too bright or too harsh.
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Optimizing light levels There are considerable differences in individual preferences for light levels. These differences can make consensus difficult when trying to set a single light level. Lighting to a uniformly low level and then providing task lighting to employees who need more light can help to resolve this issue. The glare that direct or reflected light causes can result in eye strain and poor performance. Our eyes are especially sensitive to glare from light sources in our peripheral vision.
For this reason, it is important to evaluate all light sources from the worker's perspective.
Glare is best prevented at thesource, and so many of the steps which reduce light levels will also help to reduce glare. For information on reducing glare on the monitor screen itself, see the Environment section of the Analysis and Implementation Guide. Lighting common use areas The need to control the amount of available light is not limited to an individual workstation. Common use areas, such as copy rooms and areas where there are file cabinets, may require more available light. In general, any time when someone has to read small print, visually inspect something, or search for something, higher light levels are appropriate.
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Temperature and humidity As with lighting, the temperature and humidity levels in the office affect not only comfort, but also productivity. Most office work is done while seated, and the low level of physical activity means that employees will typically prefer a slightly higher temperature than if they were active. However, offices can get too warm when the number of people and amount of heat producing equipment overwhelms the ventilation system. Problems can also be caused by installing cubicle or hard-wall offices where they cut off the normal flow of air through the building.
Uncomfortably high temperatures can cause fatigue, which can then lead to awkward postures such as slouching or slumping in the chair. Problems with low temperatures are typically localized, such as when an individual employee's office has been placed directly under a cooling vent. The cool air blowing directly down can cause cold feet and hands, as well as increased muscle tension and increased risk for tendinitis.
Humidity levels are also important to comfort and health. Too low a level of humidity results in dry skin, especially when handling paper, and can increase the amount of force used as sensation through the fingertips is reduced. Too much humidity can lead to a "stuffy" feeling and can make the temperature seem higher than it actually is. It can also have an effect on actual or perceived indoor air quality. Noise Noise in the office almost never reaches a level where it is harmful to our hearing, but it can be a distraction that is detrimental to performance and productivity.
Studies have shown that noise is most disruptive when workers are performing tasks that are mentally demanding, require attention to detail, or rely on spoken communication.
Conversation can be especially distracting, since it is harder to filter out than random noise. Provides recommendations for nursing home employers to help reduce the number and severity of work-related MSDs in their facilities. Provides recommendations for shipyards to help reduce the number and severity of work-related MSDs, increase employer and employee awareness of ergonomic risk factors, eliminate unsafe work practices, alleviate muscle fatigue, and increase productivity.
Ergonomic Guidelines for Manual Material Handling. Recognize high-risk MMH work tasks and choose effective options for reducing their physical demands. Presents recommendations for changing equipment, workstation design, or work methods with the goal of reducing work-related MSDs. National Safety Council, Includes considerations for machine operation, installation and maintenance.
Presents an easy-to-use guideline for selecting or purchasing the best available ergonomically designed non-powered hand tools. Describes the basic elements of a workplace ergonomics program aimed at preventing work-related musculoskeletal disorders. OSHA Publicaton , Provides information on the steps employers should take to determine if they have ergonomic-related problems in their workplaces, to identify the nature and location of those problems and to implement measures to reduce or eliminate them.
Assists employers and employees in recognizing and controlling potential ergonomic hazards. National Telecommunications Safety Panel, November Provides information pertaining to the science of ergonomics and its impact on the telecommunications industry. It is organized into 4 main sections by work type within the telecommunications industry; outside plant environment, central office environment, office environment and retail environment.
Control Back-pain Risks from Whole-body Vibration. For operators of off-road mobile machinery, agricultural vehicles or industrial trucks to help manage the risk of back pain. Hand-arm Vibration at Work. Advice for employers on regular and frequent use of hand-held power tools, hand-guided powered equipment, and powered machines which process hand-held materials.
Describes how to make or order inexpensive new tools or to modify existing ones to reduce the risk of backaches and pains in the arms, shoulders and hands of farm workers.