Develop an MSD Reporting System

There should be a method/system for employees to report MSD signs and symptoms and to get prompt responses. It may take either a formal or informal approach. Large employers may decide that a formal system of reporting that includes written documentation is appropriate to ensure that nothing falls through the cracks. Employers with fewer than ten employees, on the other hand, may find that oral reporting systems are adequate.

Your company probably has an injury and illness reporting system in place that can be adapted to accommodate MSD reporting. Regardless of how methods are tailored to meet the needs of a specific workplace and workforce, the process must be systematic and accessible to all employees.

A reporting system is important for a successful ergonomics program. In order for you to know that MSDs are occurring, employees must have a mechanism for reporting this information. A system that is well-known to employees is one way to ensure employee participation in the ergonomics program.

It's a good idea to designate at least one person to receive and respond to employee reports, and to take appropriate action. Depending on the workplace, that responsibility may be designated to front-line supervisors, a safety officer or safety committee, an occupational health nurse, or in small companies, the employer may encourage workers to report MSD signs and symptoms directly to him or her.

Build In-House Expertise

Training is recognized as an essential element for any effective safety and health program. For ergonomics, the overall goal of training is to enable managers, supervisors, and employees to identify aspects of job tasks that may increase a worker's risk of developing musculoskeletal disorders, recognize the signs and symptoms of the disorders, and participate in the development of strategies to control or prevent them. Training ensures that everyone involved is well informed about the hazards so they can actively participate in identifying and controlling exposures.

Ergonomics awareness training objectives should include:

  • Recognize workplace risk factors for musculoskeletal disorders and understand general methods for controlling them.

  • Identify the signs and symptoms of musculoskeletal disorders that may result from exposure to risk factors, and be familiar with the company's health care procedures.

  • Know the process the employer is using to address and control risk factors, the employee's role in the process, and ways employees can actively participate.

  • Know the procedures for reporting risk factors and musculoskeletal disorders, including the names of designated persons who should receive the reports.

Job analysis and control measures training objectives should include:

  • Demonstrate the way to do a job analysis for identifying risk factors for musculoskeletal disorders.

  • Select ways to implement and evaluate control measures.

Problem solving training objectives include:

  • Identify the departments, areas, and jobs with risk factors through a review of company reports, records, walk-through observations, and special surveys.

  • Identify tools and techniques that can be used to conduct job analyses and serve as a basis for recommendations.

  • Develop skills in team building, consensus development, and problem solving.

  • Recommend ways to control ergonomic hazards based on job analyses and pooling ideas from employees, management, and other affected and interested parties.

Training objectives are not intended to have workers, supervisors, or managers diagnose or treat ergonomic-related disorders. Rather, the purpose is to instill an understanding of what type of health problems may be work related and when to refer employees for medical evaluation. The training should include what is known about work and non-worker causes of musculoskeletal disorders and the current limitations of scientific knowledge.

Training should be understandable to the target audience and the materials used should consider the participants' education levels, literacy abilities, and language skills. This may mean providing materials, instruction, or assistance in languages other than English.

Open and frank interactions between trainers and trainees, especially those in affected jobs, are especially important. Employees know their own jobs better than anyone else and often are the source of good ideas for ways to improve them. At a minimum, employees must be given an opportunity to discuss ergonomic problems in their jobs as they see them and engage in relevant problem-solving exercises during the training.

Audit the Ergonomics Program

A comprehensive ergonomics program audit is also essential to periodically evaluate the whole set of safety and health management methods and processes to ensure that they protect against potential ergonomic hazards at a specific worksite. The audit determines whether policies and procedures are implemented as planned and whether, in practice, they have met the objectives set for the program.

Performing an audit will ensure that the overall ergonomics effort is consistent with the priorities and goals of your organization. Include accounting and engineering activities as well as safety in your audit. An ergonomic audit should focus on these areas.

  • Identification of existing and potential problems.

  • Ergonomic assessment of jobs with possible problems.

  • Correction for and prevention of ergonomic problems.

  • Medical management.

  • Ergonomics training at all employee levels.

  • Organizational issues and management.

When either performance or the objectives themselves are found inadequate, revisions to the program should be made. Without such a comprehensive review, its impossible to gage the effectiveness of the ergonomic controls you've implemented.

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