The effort of workplace safety advocates for the prevention of workplace disasters and emergencies in recent decades has been nothing less than admirable. Although there are still many areas for improvement, we can’t deny the fact that the world has come a long way since the great workplace disasters of the previous century. A quick glance at the list of regulations and workplace standards that OSHA has already put in place shows us just how far we’ve come in proactively preventing workplace accidents.
But dramatic disasters and emergencies are not the only threats to workplace safety that deserve our attention and vigilance. Health hazards which take their toll with the passage of time should also be addressed. Among such hazards are workplace conditions which cause musculoskeletal disorders.
Musculoskeletal disorders may not attract much media attention, but they contribute significantly to the cost of providing healthcare to workers. In fact, back pains are said to be the leading cause of work-related disabilities among employees. Other skeletal and muscular ailments such as whiplash, carpal tunnel syndrome and strained shoulders are also common.
To prevent such ailments, ergonomic programs should to be implemented in the workplace. The Washington State Department of Labor and Industries has prepared a practical module that’s quite helpful in this regard. OSHA has also already released guidelines on the use of ergonomics or an ergonomic program to prevent musculoskeletal injuries in the workplace. Guidelines have already been issued for specific industries including meatpacking plants, nursing homes, and shipyards – industries whose workers have long been identified to have a higher risk of developing musculoskeletal disorders.
These guidelines are voluntary, and right now OSHA is relying solely on the General Duty Clause of the Occupational Safety and Health Act to push companies into addressing recognized ergonomic hazards in their workplace. Citations are thus being issued only when companies fail to address “apparent” ergonomic hazards, but there is no obligation for companies to comply strictly with the standards set in the industry-specific guidelines. Hopefully, with a little more vigilance and pressure from workplace safety advocates, we’ll soon be able to change this and push for strict standards that emphasize the importance of ergonomics in the workplace.
A better understanding of the role of ergonomics on the health and safety of office and industrial workers has contributed significantly towards continued improvements in workplace safety. Provide ergonomics training to your workers–comfortable work environments reduce the risks of work related injuries and accidents.