Facilities Managers play an important role in improving workplace ergonomics
Kent Hatcher 9/16/09
Submitted by Walt Rostykus, B.S., MSPH, CIH, CSP, CPE
The article titled “ Safety Pays” caught my eye in the May edition of Today’s Facility Manager magazine. It is comforting to know that facility managers are engaged with and know that they can impact safety in the workplace. But as I read the article I realized the need for these and other managers to be up to date and current on effective and valid safety practices.
I encourage you to read the article yourself. Two themes really caught my attention: the dependence on injury data and cost as a true measure of ROI, and the lack of engineering approach to address ergonomic issues.
Injury/illness loss data (rates) and trends are a good way of tracking past performance. Unfortunately they are a measure of consequences which does not allow one to anticipate and prevent injuries and losses from happening. A better and effective metric for reducing losses (and costs) is to manage the level of risk. Workplace risks (hazard + exposure) are measured every day. For example, noise levels (dosimetry) results are compared with the OSHA standard; samples of respirable dusts, vapors, and airborne chemicals are measured and compared to thresholds established by the ACGIH and OSHA; ergonomic risk factors are measured and compared to the limitations of human performance with the NIOSH Lifting Equation, BRIEF, and REBA. These three ergonomic assessment methods measure exposure to the three primary risk factors for WMSDs: awkward posture, high force, and duration/frequency (time). The lessons for Facilities Managers is “Measure the impact of the work environment you manage based on risk, not consequences”. It is the only way you’ll get ahead of the curve, from reaction to preventive.
Watch for an upcoming post about the lack of engineering approach…