Beacon Mutual Insurance Company (BMIC), the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), and the National Institute of Safety and Health (NIOSH) all have the same goal of educating the public on workplace safety and ergonomics. All three raise awareness of the most common occupational hazards and risks that expose employees to injury in the workplace to minimize or prevent occupational injuries. This article will explore the 10 ergonomic and safety tips for the New Year.
According to OSHA and the Bureau of Labor Statistics (non-fatal and fatal injuries: 2019), the top ten most common workplace injuries in the United States are slip and fall, struck by moving object, struck against stationary objects, overexertion, repetitive motion injuries, electrocution, entanglement, motor vehicle accidents, falls from heights, and workplace violence.
1. Slip and fall
During the outdoor winter months, slips and falls are pretty common and are mostly preventable. In addition to signage, surface preparation, and spreading melting agents on walking surfaces, one ergonomic safety tip to prevent injury is to wear traction cleats (crampons) over the shoes for ice and snow surfaces. These are lightweight, affordable, and easy to take on and off. There are also many other types of slip and falls to consider in the workplace.
2. Struck by moving object
An example of this is a road flagger or excavation crew member getting hit by a truck. Injuries can range from simple bruises to multiple fractures leading to extensive disability and recovery costs, if not death. Wearing hi-visibility apparel and staying alert and clear of moving vehicles entering and exiting work sites can help to prevent accidents.
3. Struck against stationary objects
This injury results from hitting a stationary object, such as a tree worker hitting their head on a tree limb. Struck by stationary objects is common with construction laborers, loggers, dockworkers, and carpenters. One simple way to avoid serious injury is to always wear a hardhat in required areas, stay alert, and be aware of the surroundings at all times.
Overexertion is an event or exposure that leads to an injury due to excessive physical effort from handling objects, lifting, pushing/pulling, carrying, and more. Physical overexertion is often associated with musculoskeletal injuries such as sprains and strains. The high-risk industries are construction, food processing, firefighting, office jobs, healthcare, transportation, and warehousing. Common ergonomic methods to prevent overexertion are using material handling aids (hand truck, dolly, and hoist), using proper body mechanics, neutral postures, planning, and getting assistance when available.
5. Repetitive motion injuries (RMI’s)
RMI's are a significant cause of injury, and ergonomics has a substantial role in reducing risk. Repeated motions result from injuries to the muscles, nerves, tendons, joints, cartilage, and spinal discs. Three common RMI injuries are tennis elbow, rotator cuff syndrome, and carpal tunnel syndrome. Back strains and sprains in the construction industry from repeated bending or bending with force are not only common but the most expensive to treat. RIM’s are common in the office setting but are usually avoidable through proper ergonomics with minimal changes.
In the electrical industry, electrocution is a significant hazard. Per OSHA, the most common reasons for electrocution is contact with power lines, lack of ground-fault protection, the path to ground missing or discontinuous, equipment not used in a manner prescribed, and improper use of extension and flexible cords. Contact with ladders against live electrical wires can also lead to death.
Entanglement happens when the body comes in contact with mechanical or moving parts. There are four types of entanglement, pinch/nip, shear/cut, pull-in, and wrap, which commonly occur from getting something caught in rotating motors, pulleys, belts, gears, augers, sickles, and more. To avoid entanglement, all moving parts must be guarded, avoid loose clothing, and the machines must be locked out during maintenance and repair. Working around such hazards requires working with the hands at appropriate heights and depths.
8. Motor vehicle accidents
Motor vehicle accidents are a frequent cause of work injury. However, they can often be avoided. Safety awareness and ergonomic comfort inside the vehicle are essential. Adjusting the mirrors, seat belt, headrest, and seat position is necessary. It is also recommended to sit with the seat slightly reclined to approximately 100-110 degrees to reduce lumbar pressure while supporting the back and shoulders. Beacon is offering a free Motor Vehicle Safety webinar on January 18th at 10 am. All webinars are open to the public.
9. Falls from heights
In construction, falls are the leading cause of worker deaths each year, occurring from ladders, aerial lifts, roofs, and more. As a result, OSHA requires fall protection when working at heights of 6 feet or greater. Proper fall protection suitable to the work, such as a personal fall arrest system (PFAS), is required in some situations. Falls from ladders are pretty standard, so NIOSH offers a free app called Ladder Safety.
10. Workplace violence
Workplace violence is considered the third most common cause of workplace fatalities. According to OSHA, it is any act or threat of physical violence, harassment, intimidation, or other threatening disruptive behavior that occurs at the worksite. Two variables that impact the risk of violence include the time of the day of the work (day or evening shift) and the work location. Delivery drivers, healthcare professionals, and customer service agents are higher-risk occupations for violence. OSHA recommends a zero-tolerance policy as the best protection against workplace violence. The type of engineering controls, administrative controls, and training required to combat workplace violence depends on the occupation.
Learn more about Beacon's Ergo & Safety Resources
Beacon Mutual offers free ergonomic services, safety webinars, safety alerts, and ergo bulletins to its policyholders. So why not take advantage of these free resources and learn essential ergonomic and safety tips for the New Year.