Shop Floor Risk Assessment & Easy Working
Few can fail to be aware of the risk of traumatic injury on the factory floor: manufacturing processes that heat, cut, form, treat and assemble steel, glass, plastic and so on can easily make a mess of flesh and bone!

Nowadays there is greater awareness of hazards, associated with specific processes and materials, which are less obvious and more insidious in nature. What were perhaps once accepted as ‘occupational hazards’ in certain jobs are no longer tolerated, as the longer-term effects of exposure to the likes of coal dust and asbestos have become known.

 There are other types of insidious injury which are much more prevalent, and can even affect people working in shops and offices, as well as the factory floor. These come under the heading Repetitive Strain Injury (RSI) There are many names (and acronyms) for this, and specific types affecting different parts of the body.

 They can also occur outside the workplace, as I know to my cost! A couple of years ago I set about digging a garden pond. The effects of thrusting a spade down into stony ground soon became obvious on my inner elbow. The doctor diagnosed this as ‘golfer’s elbow’: repeated shocks caused damage between the humerus and ulna. The cure? I simply had to give it time to mend itself.

This was the result of a few hours effort. Clearly, full-time jobs inflicting such injury would be untenable, yet there are many other jobs which have similar effects which make take longer to manifest themselves – and often longer to heal.

 Injuries are caused by a combination of:

  • Posture
  • Force
  • Duration
  • Repetition

In my case, force and repetition were the main factors. In contrast, someone spending all day at a computer workstation, had best beware posture and duration.

As an indication of the influence of posture on overall well-being, consider the case of Liverpool midfielder Steven Gerrard. He had been sidelined by groin and back injuries, but has displayed an astonishing improvement since having his wisdom teeth removed. Chiropracter Jonathan Howett commented, “If your teeth are not aligned it gives you an unbalanced bite, which in turn destabilises the skull and the head posture. This unbalances the spine and pelvic posture and makes the muscles pull in awkward directions. All bodily movements become out of sync and this creates a risk of muscular strain.”

According to the H&SE, reported work-related illnesses & injuries increased by 122% over five years, with stress and musculoskeletal disorders (such as back pain and RSI) being mainly responsible for this increase. It is estimated that 1.2 million UK employees suffer from work-related musculoskeletal disorders, incurring 119 million days lost at an estimated cost of £5 billion. In addition to the obvious losses in productivity, there are costs of re-training, the cost of state benefits and the costs to the health service, and the number of disability claims has been steadily rising over the past ten years.

 Much of this can be prevented. In simple terms:

  • Poor posture?               Design ergonomic work stations
  • Excessive force?           Review product design; get the right tools for the job
  • Excessive duration?      Consider power tools
  • Repetition?                   Rotate jobs

I borrowed a pick and shovel to complete my pond: a more appropriate tool to loosen the earth, and some job rotation whilst shifting it!

In order to avoid the risk of RSI in the workplace it is best to conduct a Risk Assessment to spot potential hazards before injury is caused. This scrutiny has the added benefit of highlighting effort wasted in stretching, bending, squinting, and so on, as well as re-orienting and handling tools and materials which are not well-presented. Its easy enough to tell people to take a break if they are subject to risk factors, but correcting these problems to create a more comfortable and productive workplace reaps benefits for employees and employers alike.

Please us the ‘contact’ form for details of Risk Assessment and Easy Working programmes.

Is there a better way of transferring product from bin to tray?

Is the position and layout of the control panel really appropriate?

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