“OSHA found that workers in this plant were exposed to safety and musculoskeletal hazards and suffered serious injuries as a result.” These were the words of Dr. David Michaels, Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health. It followed an investigation of a poultry plant where OSHA fined the company $102,000 for ergonomic hazards. Michaels continued, “The outcome of this investigation deepened our concern about musculoskeletal hazards in poultry plants, where employees are at increased risk of developing carpal tunnel syndrome and other disorders that affect the nerves, muscles and tendons. These types of injuries are preventable by implementing appropriate engineering and administrative controls in the workplace, and when they occur, they must be treated early with appropriate medical care to prevent the illness from progressing. However, in this plant, OSHA found workers were often required to seek assistance from the company’s on-site nurse many times before they were referred to a physician.”
Before going any further, we must point out that OSHA does not typically levy fines for ergonomic hazards. The facility in question was cited previously for violations and as indicated, workers had difficulty obtaining outside medical help for musculoskeletal injuries suffered on the job. But could this action signal a change in OSHA’s approach to ergonomic injuries?
The truth is, we do not know. This may be an isolated incident or it could reflect a change in policy when it comes to musculoskeletal injuries.
An ounce of prevention . . .
What we do know is this: prevention costs far less than workman’s comp costs (and fines by OSHA). According to the National Council on Compensation Insurance (NCCI), the average cost per claim (direct costs) averaged between $23,083 and $32,319. Now multiply this by each claim, training replacements and the cost of insurance. You will quickly see how musculoskeletal injury prevention makes sense. The thing to remember is you can reduce your exposure. How? Here are some easy suggestions:
- Read what OSHA has to say on the topic of ergonomics.
- If you haven’t already, develop an ergonomics plan for your company. There are a number of organizations willing to assist in developing an ergonomics plan. However, here is a sample plan from the state of North Dakota.
- Because it only takes 35 lbs of push/pull force to cause a musculoskeletal injury, consider investing in equipment to help alleviate the potential for injury. Electro-Kinetic Technologies offers a wide range of stock and custom motorized carts while other companies offer a variety of complementary equipment designed to reduce musculoskeletal injury.
We also offer a free report, the Impact of musculoskeletal injuries in the workplace. This report reveals the staggering costs associated with workman’s comp claims. Request your free report today.
Time will tell if OSHA chooses to become more aggressive in its enforcement of ergonomic hazards. Regardless, your company’s best option remains that of prevention.