No sprains, big gains

No sprains, big gains


Many people may not realise that workplace
related sprain and strain injuries are a really huge problem across the state. In actual fact,
of the eighty-five thousand plus workplace injuries in Queensland each year, more than
sixty percent are sprain and strain injuries. What’s even more concerning is that this
problem isn’t even going away, it’s getting worse. And many of these injuries could have
been easily prevented. Sure we realise each workplace is unique,
and as such there’s no one size fits all solutions to prevent these type of injuries.
But as you’ll see in this film there are some practical, simple and relatively inexpensive
things you can do in your workplace to help reduce your risk of sprain and strain injuries. Anything that involves physical exertion,
I would say is a manual task. It’s a job that requires human effort. Lifting manually by yourself, without the
cranes and that. Anything using your hands or… Packing pallets. Loading pallets. Unloading
pallets and all that sort of stuff. A lot of people think manual tasks is just
about heavy lifting and carrying. But there’s loads more to it than that, if you’ll pardon
the pun. Manual tasks are those workplace activities
that require the use of force exerted by a person to grasp, manipulate, strike, throw, carry, move – as in lift/lower/push/pull, hold or restrain an object, load or body part.
Phew!! A sprain or strain is a term that doctors
use when they’re talking about something that’s not broken. So it’s a soft tissue
injury and that doesn’t mean it’s not serious and doesn’t mean it’s going to
get better quickly because often they don’t. Most people I see are not from heavy lifting,
the sprains and strains are more from accumulative effect of the work duties that they do. Which
might include doing things repetitively, or doing things that are forceful and also if
they do them for a long time during the course of the day. I was actually in the process of lifting a
sixty kilogram cake, which is a compressed, washed linen and I realised pretty well straight
away that there was a problem. When I was younger, I worked hard. I was one
of the boys. Let’s get into, let’s get it done. The pain was pretty bad. It was something
I’ve never experienced before. And it all added up that when I got older
then this injury I’ve got is going to be with me for the rest of my life. Half of the problem with sprain and strain
injuries is that people think they’re a bit of a non-issue, but many of them are very
serious and can have a huge impact. It impacts you on doing your activities in
daily living that you need to do. Also what you might need to do in your workplace. The biggest impact of this injury has been
the change to my lifestyle. It was painful enough… painful enough to
stop me from doing some of the normal duties that I was before that. I can’t do sport anymore, that’s just
a no-no. I used to enjoy doing cricket umpiring. Not on. I can’t stand out in the field.
Activities with the family, not on. Maintenance around the house, I can’t do that. There is an economic impact that they’re
not making as much money as what they would if they were at work. And then that then can
cause them a lot of stress and stress on the family, and on the children as well. And then
that can lead further on to marriage breakdown, people losing their house. And that’s not
an uncommon thing. Painkillers, well they’re a part of life
now whether I like it or not, I’ve got to take them. If I don’t take them well
then everybody else suffers for it because sometimes I’m not a nice person to get along
with. I got off pretty easily I think when compared
to other people. I would never had thought in a hundred years
that I would suffer from this so much. I think about how lucky I’ve been all the
time. You know, I think of how much worse it could have been. A sprain or a strain not only affects the
injured worker, but it can have a serious impact on the workplace too. Well it affects everything. All the other
workers, because they’re left to take up the slack and probably have to work that bit
harder until you can organise replacements and that sort of thing. Depending on the level
of worker, obviously, if it’s someone who’s been here a while you lose a lot of knowledge.
Managers then of course tend to pull their hair out because their production’s out
of whack. So once your production’s down, your finances obviously and given the way
economics are at the moment that’s not a good thing for any industry to have to cope
with. It’s good to see something that’s actually
suable and understandable, even for people like me. And that you can include the guys
down the back. Although a lot of workplace activities are
manual tasks, not all of them are likely to cause an injury. There’s heaps of ways to
identify which manual tasks are risky and what you can do about them. While some risk
assessment tools can appear complex, I’m going to walk you through a simple and really
practical tool that you can use in your workplace. It’s called PErforM. At the risk of scaring
you off it stands for: Participative Ergonomics For Manual Tasks. Yep, that’s a bit of a
mouthful so let’s break it down into some simple steps. By the way be sure to checkout
the user friendly PErforM handbook for a more detailed explanation.
The first thing you need to do to start managing your manual tasks risks is to work out what
high risk manual tasks you actually have in your workplace.
So how do you go about this? You could talk to your workers to find out what tasks they
don’t like doing because they’re difficult or cause them physical pain. If you see tasks
where workers have made improvisations such as standing on boxes and the like to reach
things, this might also indicate that there’s a problem. You should also take a look around
your workplace, even video various tasks so you can watch them later and assess which
tasks may be risky. But to do this you’ll need to know what risk factors that you’re
looking for in the first place. There are five risk factors that directly
stress the body. These are forceful exertions, awkward and static postures, vibration, repetition,
and duration. These are discussed in more detail in the handbook, but just briefly:
Forceful exertions are about the amount of physical effort needed to do the job. The
more effort required to do the task the higher the risk of an injury because the muscles
get tired. Awkward and static postures is the next risk
factor. Awkward postures occur when parts of the body move away from a comfortable neutral
position. For example, the neutral position for the hand and wrist is the handshake position
and the more you bend or twist it, the more awkward or uncomfortable it becomes.
Static postures refer to postures where a part of or the whole body is kept in the same
position for a long period of time. Repetition means making the same types of
movements over and over again. Duration relates to the amount of time it
takes to do a task without a break. Duration becomes a risk if the task is done for more
than an hour at a time. The last of the five risk factors is vibration,
and there are two types. The first is whole body vibration, which normally results from
sitting or standing on a vibrating surface, for example, a forklift, dozer, tractor or
platform. Hand-arm vibration is caused by holding on to vibrating equipment such as
grinders, drills or jackhammers. This is particularly risky if the equipment isn’t maintained
properly. Okay, just to check, can you identify the
risk factors in the following scenes? If you’ve identified (a) as being an example
of repetition, (b) as vibration, (c) as awkward and static postures, (d) as duration, and
(e) as forceful exertion. Then you’ve got five out of five.
Now that you know what the five risk factors are, you’ll find it much easier to identify
the tasks in your workplace that have a higher risk of sprain or strain injuries. Once you’ve
spotted the task to improve, the next thing to do is to work your way through the three
steps of the PErforM risk assessment tool. The first of these steps is to talk to your
workers to gather the background information that you’ll need to complete worksheet
one, which is at the back of the handbook. The next step is to fill out worksheet two,
which you’ll also find at the back of the handbook.
The first thing to do here is to work out what parts of the body are affected by the
task that’s being performed. Again, you should ask your workers about where they feel
sore or tired after performing a task. Or you can observe them performing the task to
see if any of the other risk factors we talked about earlier are there. Now you need to mark
these affected areas on the body map on worksheet two. If you think that several parts of the
body have the same risk, for example the hand and wrist, you can group them together. If
you’re unsure, just rate each body part separately. If you decide to assess more than
one body part or group, you can mark them on the body map in different colours to keep
better track of them. The second part to completing worksheet two
is to rate each risk factor. This is done separately for each part of the body that
you identified on the body map. The rating scale is from one to five and the higher the
rating the higher the risk. The third and final step at this point is
to identify suitable controls for the risks in the tasks that rated the highest. From someone who’s had a lot to do with
heavy manual tasks, I guess, it’s certainly easy to use and it’s quick. It really is
fast. It allows buy-in from the workers, which is three-quarters of the problem half the
time, if they can see some benefit it certainly helps you. So let’s put all this into practice. We’re
going to look at an example of unloading a pallet with the help of Jane. Jane is a safety
officer at a supermarket. Before kicking off the three PErforM steps,
Jane firstly pinpointed a problematic task in her workplace – unloading a pallet. She
saw this task as being risky because workers have experienced injuries or pain during or
after unloading activities. Jane then followed the first PErforM step and gathered some background
information about the task from the workers to help her fill out worksheet one. For this
example, they received ten pallets a day, three days a week. It takes two to three hours
for six workers to complete the task. Step two, and Jane’s now onto worksheet
two where she needs to identify which parts of the body are affected and how she’ll
group them together. Jane has seen the potential trouble spots of the lower back, shoulder
and the hand and wrist. The hand and wrist have been grouped together as they have similarities
in their movements, position and effort. The next thing she does is rate each risk factor
for each body part. Exertion has been rated as a four for the shoulder, as there is a
substantial amount of effort needed to move the boxes and the movements are fairly quick.
Awkward posture has also been rated as a four, as the worker is reaching to one side of the
body when picking up the boxes. There’s no vibration involved in this task so we can
rate this risk factor as a one for all body parts. The task takes two to three hours to
complete, which fits in the highest category for duration because it’s greater than two
hours. This rating is the same for all the body parts. The cycle time, which is the time
it takes to pick up a box, put it on the trolley and go back to get another one is five to
six seconds. So this would fit in the five category for repetition because it’s less
than ten seconds. The workers and Jane have completed the ratings for each of the other
body parts. Now that she’s finished assessing the risk
factors, she determines where the highest risks are. From the form, we can see that
exertion and awkward posture for the shoulder and lower back and duration and repetition
for all body parts rated in the four or five categories and need to be controlled very
soon. Her final step is to work out what she can
do to reduce these risks. The first priority should always be to eliminate the risk altogether.
But in this case it isn’t an option. The next best plan is to come up with a design
control. By raising the height of the trolley the risk to the back and shoulder can be reduced.
Repetition and duration also rated highly, so the time that any one worker does the task
needs to be reduced. Now that the controls have been determined, Jane will have to make
sure that all the workers know how to do the job the right way. This doesn’t mean giving
them lifting technique training, such as teaching them to bend their knees and keep their back
straight, because this type of training alone doesn’t work in reducing the risk of injury.
Training needs to be specific to this task. Workers need to know how to use the new trolley.
For example, how to adjust it, where it’s stored and what maintenance is needed to keep
it working the way it’s supposed to. And that’s the PErforM process. As we’ve seen in this film identifying risks
and putting in control measures for manual tasks doesn’t have to be difficult or costly.
In most cases simple, inexpensive measures can result in huge improvements to safety
in your workplace. Safety is not only good practice, it’s good business. I think using PErforM has made productivity
a whole lot better. The financial performance of the organisation
has increased five hundred percent since we’ve implemented these programs. There was a set-up cost, you know, different
jigs and all the rest of it and retraining workers, but it is going to pay off. Our employees also know that we value them.
If we want our employees to show the same level of commitment to the product that we
send out, then we have to show that same level of commitment to them. All I can say to anybody else faced with,
you know, the circumstances I had if there’s a better way to do it, do it. Don’t put
yourself in a situation where you’re going to suffer the recurring pain that I’ve got. Work safe. Home safe. For more info or copies of the PErforM handbook and worksheets please visit www.worksafe,qld.gov.au or call the Workplace Health and Safety infoline on 1300 369 915.

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