Oregon OSHA offers new ergonomics Web site
The Oregon Occupational Safety and Health Division (Oregon OSHA) now has
new research, resources and practical solutions to workplace ergonomic
problems as close as a mouse click away. The agency, which regulates workplace
safety for the majority of workers in Oregon, launched a new Web-based
resource on November 1st to provide Oregon's employers and workers with
the latest recommendations and industry-specific information.
Ergonomics is the science of adapting the work environment to meet the
needs of the worker.Ergonomics has gained the most attention surrounding
office injuries and repetitive-motion injuries on assembly lines. The
challenge for people like Mark Noll, ergonomics consultant for Oregon
OSHA, is convincing workers in other industries that they are also faced
with ergonomic problems. "When we work with safety committees and
ask them where have you heard about ergonomics, the first thing they say
is we heard about carpal-tunnel syndrome with office workers," says
Noll. "Then when you start sharing with them the injury problems
in their industries, like back strains and sprains, they're surprised
to find out it really does apply to their workplace, too."
The Web site, available through Oregon OSHA's home page, www.orosha.org,
offers ergonomic research and solutions for the construction industry,
healthcare, agriculture, wood products industry, general industrial settings
and office environments. In 2000, almost 26 percent of the 1.7 million
Americans injured at work were service sector workers with injuries related
to muscle, nerve or tendon damage. In Oregon, one-fifth of the 24,645
workers' compensation accepted disabling claims in 2001 were due to back
strains and sprains. Practicing good ergonomics can increase work productivity
by reducing down-time caused by worker injuries, stress and fatigue.
Some of the back injuries paid out in workers' compensation claims result
from working in what ergonomists like Noll call "awkward postures"
where the human body is extended for a period of time. "Those occur
when working very low off the floor," says Noll, "The worker
is bending and working off the floor, or working too high, say at above
shoulder height. Employers can walk through their workplaces and have
an eye for those situations where people will do a lot of bending, a lot
of reaching or working too high. If the employer can figure out ways to
just get the objects closer to the worker, that goes a long way in reducing
the risk of injuries."
Ergonomic losses can add up quickly for a small business. Depending on
the industry, workers' compensation claims can average between eight and
thirteen thousand dollars per claim in direct costs for lost-time disability
The Web site makes it easy for employers to find "real world tested"
solutions for injury problems. The "Ergonomics
for Construction" page provides analysis of frequent injuries
which occur on Oregon construction sites, an ergonomics checklist (in
English and Spanish) to survey for hazards, key questions to ask during
the preplanning process, and how to identify hazards in specialized applications
such as concrete work, utility placement, mechanical systems, residential
construction, drywall installation and masonry. Oregon OSHA's "Wood
Products Ergonomics" page features detailed reports on frequent
injuries reported by logging operations, saw and planing mills, and related
wood products industries. This page offers a number of solutions to address
potential repetitive motion injuries that exist in log scaling, circular
blade handling, debarkers, trim saws, conveyors and many other wood products
Training is an important part of improving ergonomic conditions. The Web
site features information about the four ergonomics training courses (including
on-line course) offered by Oregon OSHA. Employers
can also request an
on-site evaluation from an Oregon OSHA ergonomics consultant directly
on the new Web page.
The Web site features numerous links to research sources in Oregon, Washington,
Canada and federal agencies including the U.S.
Occupational Safety and Health Administration and the National
Institute for Occupational Safety and Health.