Pay Attention to the Details: Identifying Ergonomic Risk
by Ryan Cowart, AEP
I was walking down the street the other day and observed an employee picking up what looked like a heavy bag of trash and throwing it into a large compactor located above shoulder height. I couldn’t help but wonder how many times that employee performed the same task throughout the day. Although throwing one or two bags of trash per day doesn’t seem too strenuous, consider it from another perspective. If you had a camera mounted on the trash compactor and recorded that employee for a month or two, I bet you would be surprised!
Let’s do the math. Say an organization accumulates enough waste to throw out 18 trash bags per day, then imagine that this happens every day for 52 weeks out of the year, and 40% on the weekends. The amount of trash bags thrown in to a dumpster comes to 5,428 per year.
What do we do with this kind of information? We use the math to support recommendations to reduce or eliminate the lifting of trash bags by providing an engineering solution. Current research states that the average total direct cost per claim of a shoulder injury is $14,000. By decreasing the amount of lifts that any employee must perform in order to dispose of trash, you are effectively reducing the level of risk associated with that task. Therefore, it is worth identifying the ergonomic risks that exist within your organization, because your employees’ health and safety depends on it.