"We have people trying to aggressively come out of this recession by making more money with fewer people," said Diana Pelletier, president of the California-based Pelletier & Associates. "One client had the most workers' comp injuries this year than in the last 12 years for that exact reason."
The problem is that fewer people are taking on more work and suffering the physical consequences. Employees tend to remain quiet and work through the pain for fear of losing their jobs.
"We need to educate the employers," she said. "You can work your people hard, but we can only work them so hard and they are going to start to break."
Pelletier says employers need to make sure their employees don't suffer from repetitive motion injuries that can lead to long-term workers' comp claims.
Workers need to be shown how to properly fit into their work spaces, especially those who are seated at a workstation.
"I use a car analogy," Pelletier said. "You don't get into your vehicle and not adjust the seat, the steering wheel, and the mirror for you. You can't drive otherwise because it's unsafe. It's the same thing in your work environment."
It's largely a matter of people just not understanding how to adjust their equipment.
"I can't tell you how many times I go out and all we do is adjust the chair," she said. "Someone's never shown them."
Chairs, keyboard platforms, monitors and other equipment should be set up for maximum comfort and thus injury-resistant for the worker. Employers can often find free solutions.
"Go to your product vendors," Pelletier advised. "Say, 'I've purchased 300 wonderful ergonomic chairs so you should come in and support them.' Have a lunch and learn showing staff how to adjust the chairs."
Vendors eager to establish ongoing relationships are usually more than happy to help, Pelletier said.
Accessorizing is another consideration for employers looking to improve work space ergonomics. A $30 footrest may solve a problem rather than a new $500 chair.
Pelletier says employers looking to implement preventive training should keep the following in mind:
- It should be regular. "People can't be trained once in six years and retain that information."
- It should be short.
- It should be relevant. "Give people real information about the jobs they're doing."
Read more at the WorkersComp Forum homepage.
November 18, 2010
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