Administrative and Work Practice Controls

Administrative Controls

Administrative controls are management-dictated work practices and policies to reduce or prevent exposures to ergonomic risk factors. Administrative control strategies include (1) changes in job rules and procedures such as scheduling more rest breaks, (2) rotating workers through jobs that are physically tiring, and (3) training workers to recognize ergonomic risk factors and to learn techniques for reducing the stress and strain while performing their work tasks.

Although engineering controls are preferred, administrative controls can be helpful as temporary measures until engineering controls can be implemented or when engineering controls are not technically feasible. Administrative controls can be used to reduce the duration, frequency, and severity of exposure to ergonomic hazards. Some examples of frequently employed administrative controls include:

  • Job rotation can be used as a means to alleviate physical fatigue and stress to a particular set of muscles and tendons. To be effective, employees should be rotated to jobs that utilize different muscle-tendon groups. Job rotation in this regard is used as a preventative measure, not in response to symptoms of cumulative trauma disorders.

  • Broadening or varying the job content to offset certain risk factors (e.g., repetitive motions, static and awkward postures).

  • Shift length and overtime can have a major impact on exposure to risk factors, depending on the physical and mental demands of the job. For example, jobs requiring heavy materials handling may need shorter shift lengths. Where demand fluctuates, employees may be asked to work overtime; if the frequency or length of overtime is excessive, fatigue may result and recovery time may be reduced.

  • Frequent breaks can be incorporated into the workday to relieve fatigued muscles and to reduce stress and strain on various muscle groups.

  • Decreasing production rates and limiting overtime work are two ways to reduce the total number of repetitions per employee.

  • Adjusting the work pace to relieve repetitive motion risks and give the worker more control of the work process.

  • Increasing the number of employees assigned to a task can help alleviate severe work conditions.

  • Training in the recognition of risk factors for musculoskeletal disorders and instruction in work practices that can ease the task demands or burden.

  • Consider ergonomic strategies when developing new products and procedures. When a product is designed, consideration should be given to materials, containers for moving product and materials, fasteners, assembly access and sequence, and software interfaces.

Work Practice Controls

An effective program for ergonomic hazard prevention and control also includes safe and proper work practices that are understood and followed by managers, supervisors, and employees. Key elements of a good work practice program include instruction in proper work techniques, employee training and conditioning, regular monitoring, feedback, adjustments, modification, and maintenance.

For example, after employees are trained in a particular work activity, such as proper lifting or proper tool handling, supervisors and managers should be involved in monitoring workers to ensure that employees continue to use the proper techniques. Improper practices should be corrected to prevent injury.

Proper training with reasonable "break-in" periods for new employees or employees that have been away from the job is another work practice that can help reduce the incidence of cumulative trauma disorders. Break-in periods permit employees to build the strength needed to perform the work and reduce muscle fatigue.

Some companies have also initiated exercise periods for warming up workers at the beginning of a shift and for stretching, relaxing, and strengthening muscle groups frequently used by workers. Exercise periods help to prevent injuries by warming up cold muscles and relaxing fatigued muscles which are more susceptible to injury.

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