Of course, any responsible operations manager works hard to prevent employees from becoming injured in avoidable accidents. Slick floors, blind corners, low light and other environmental hazards can lead to unexpected events that can cause incidents and traumatic injury. Workplace illness should also find a place at the top of a list of safety issues; employees should be prevented from spreading germs or coming in contact with hazardous materials that can hurt them over time.
But while keeping an eye out for dangerous materials and conditions, safety-conscious managers should also keep an eye on another workplace threat: repeated actions that can place stress on the tendons, bones and joints. These activities may not lead to ER visits, but they can cause inflammation, stress fractures and damage to the body that may worsen with time. Here are a few considerations to keep in mind while monitoring how workers spend their shifts.
Recognize the categories of musculoskeletal risk.
Repetitive stress injuries can be caused by several categories of strain. These include twisting (which happens when an employee rotates one part of the body in an unnatural or unsustainable way), pinching (which can occur when a part of the body is pressed against an edge or surface that pinches a nerve or cuts off circulation) and impact (which happens when the hands or feet are used to pound, tamp or position a heavy object).
Not all dangerous conditions are obvious.
Repetitive stress injuries and their causes are not always apparent right away. A strained motion or incorrect posture can be repeated for years before harm is evident, and by then, adjustments may arrive too late. Make sure employees who take on any of the risks described above are limited to a safe number of repetitions or hours per shift.
Take immediate action in the event of complaints.
If employees complain a certain motion or position is especially stressful, take action immediately and investigate alternatives or adjustments to the workspace. Invest in ergonomic equipment design, especially regarding seating and hand-operated controls. If employees will be operating a lift truck for the duration of an entire shift, they should not be twisting or reaching to maintain proper visibility or control over lift loads. The truck may be the problem, not the employee or the task.
Change roles and tasks.
Assign repetitive tasks to partners or teams, and require a shift every hour or two to relieve employees and change their activities. And of course, provide all proper protective and safety gear and make sure each person is outfitted properly for each shifting task.
For more on how to identify hazards and protect employees from repetitive stress injuries, reach out to the team at Liftow.