Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Ergonomics: Preventing Those Pains in the Neck

Ergonomics in the laundry ...

"The premise behind an ergonomics program is simple: Improving the fit between the demands of work tasks and the capabilities of workers can not only prevent costly injuries, it can improve a textile service provider’s productivity, product quality and overall business standing.

And employees will be happier, too.

AREAS OF GREATEST RISK?

The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) says looking for clues of stress or strain is the first step in a proactive ergonomics action plan.

Worker fatigue or discomfort, increased absenteeism, poor product quality or employee morale, production bottlenecks, missed quotas and even malfunctioning equipment can signal that there’s trouble.

But where in the laundry should one look for these signs? Phillips & Associates, a Minnesota-based textile management engineering and consulting firm, identified some areas in its seminar handout, Understanding the Application of Ergonomics in the Laundry Industry, available through its website (www.phillipsandassociates.com).

The firm says tasks or areas where laundry workers are at the greatest ergonomic risk include:

* Manual pushing and pulling of loaded carts.
* Unloading soiled-linen carts when weight increments are greater than 40 pounds.
* Any task that requires bending or stooping.
* Workstations that don’t address the fact that all people are not created equal in physical stature.
* Any task that requires standing on a concrete floor for long periods.
* Loading linen shelves at a height that is higher than the normal person can handle.
* Laundry/washroom floors that are wet.

Why is the ergonomics issue so important?

Service-level employees are in high demand, Phillips and Associates says, and tightened immigration policies have created a shortage of younger workers. The service sector is being forced to hire older workers, who are more susceptible to injury. And the slow economy is requiring retirement-age employees to work longer for insurance and basic healthcare needs.

The rate of injuries and illnesses for laundry and drycleaning establishments with 50 to 249 workers was 7.3 per 100 full-time workers in 2006, according to data compiled by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, greater than workers who drill oil and gas wells (6.7).

Employers often find themselves paying for medical bills, either directly or through workers’ compensation insurance, while at the same time having to adjust their operations to cope with a smaller work force, according to NIOSH."    (Continued via Laundry News, Bruce Beggs)    [Ergonomics Resources]

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