NIOSH Emphasizes Workstation Design, Training to Mitigate Ergonomic Hazards
During a recent health hazard evaluation (HHE) of a label manufacturing facility, NIOSH staff observed employees working in awkward postures that put them at risk for developing work-related musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs). The HHE, which was requested by facility management, indicates that workstations were not designed so employees could safely perform tasks. Specifically, NIOSH staff noted that hand-working heights were too low or too high, and reach distances were too long. Employees continually bent at the waist while working. The authors of the NIOSH report also indicate the lack of a formal training program covering ergonomics and instruction on how to safely perform job tasks. This lack of training “resulted in a work force that had inconsistent knowledge of how to do its job safely,” according to the report.
The report lists several recommendations to the employer to improve health and safety at the facility, including:
- adjust staffing or assigned work hours to increase employees’ rest and recovery times
- provide ergonomics training to all employees annually
- write standard operating procedures for each job task to reduce overexertion injuries
- implement a formal training program for new workers that includes a skills and safety evaluation by a supervisor before a new employee is permitted to work unsupervised
- redesign workstations to match ergonomic design guidelines as detailed in the report