Posts Tagged ‘OSHA’

5 Things Managers Should Implement To Avoid Office Injuries

Thursday, August 23rd, 2012

The following post is a guest post from Connect Physical Health. Connect Physical Health has been providing both on-site and off-site Occupational physiotherapy services including training packages since 1989 and has a proven track record across a wide range of public and private business sectors.  Connect delivers significant financial savings, typically £4 for every £1 invested and helps to improve the wellbeing of your greatest asset – your workforce!

In businesses across the nation, millions of employees sit at desks for at least 40 hours each week. That means 2,400 minutes of shoulder slumping, wrist twisting, and eye straining. You may not know it, but your employees may be experiencing carpal tunnel syndrome, trigger finger, or even tendonitis. Many suffer from general aches and pains—back pain, joint pain, neck stiffness, sore eyes, and the like—because of improper ergonomics in the workplace.

We know that, as an employer, you can’t risk these injuries in your workforce. That’s why we researched ways to avoid injury at the office. Here’s what we found:

 

1.       Well Designed Office Furniture Is Worth The Investment

One of the direct culprits of office injuries is disproportional office equipment. We know that each individual is different so tailoring to each body type may be difficult. But having adjustable office chairs and desks may be a great solution.

Investing in quality office furniture can be expensive but paying medical bills associated with office injuries can be even more costly to your bottom line. Having furniture that fits your employees comfortably can go a long way in preventing aches, pains, and rising health care costs.

You’ll want to choose a chair with a stable five-point base that’s on wheels. The height should be easily adjustable so that each employee can rest his or her feet on the floor. Also, consider chairs with adjustable armrests that allow your employees to rest their arms at waist-level.

Just like the chair, the desk should be adjusted to fit the user. While the employee is seated, the desk should come up to elbow level. Employees should not have to hunch over to reach their work. There should be enough room beneath the desk to comfortably fit the worker’s knees and thighs.

 

2.       Make Sure Each Computer Is Properly Placed

 The majority of your office workers probably use a computer to complete their tasks. Employees with a standard desktop should have the monitor centered at eye-level. It should be ‘arms distance’ away from the employee’s body.

For those employees using a laptop, proper ergonomics can be difficult. Keeping the head and neck in line, while also finding a comfortable position for the hands and wrists, can be a challenge. That’s why we suggest an external monitor or keyboard for frequent laptop users. This way, you can be sure that each employee has the office design they need to keep proper posture and spine alignment.

 

3.       Encourage People To Have Good Posture

Even with the proper office design, employees sitting with incorrect posture are bound to need a trip to a physiotherapist eventually. While sitting in an office chair, users must keep the bones of the spine properly aligned in order to avoid injury. Having diagrams of proper office posture  in the break room can be a great reminder for your staff.

Here are some guidelines to suggest to your office employees:

  • Sit with hips and backside as far back as possible in the chair. Use a rolled up towel or the chair’s lumbar support to keep the lower back comfortable.
  • Knees should be positioned slightly lower than the hips.
  • Let the arms hang natural and relaxed. Rest the forearms on the chair’s armrests. Keep elbows in close to the body, especially when keying and using the mouse.
  • The head should always be level and in line with the torso.
  • Sit close to the desk. Never slouch or slump.

 

4.       Schedule Rest Breaks

 With the hectic pace of corporate America today, “rest breaks” have all but been eliminated from our vocabulary. As the employer, we recommend that you promote breaks and brief walks to help keep your employees energized and relaxed. We recommend a short break every 30 to 60 minutes. Encourage your workers to stand up, walk, or stretch during this period. Here are some specific stretches for employees who need to alleviate tight muscles:

  • Stretch arms over your head and link fingers. Lean back slightly, pushing the chest out.
  • On one side, tilt ear to shoulder. Hold for five seconds and return to vertical. Repeat on the other side.
  • From a relaxed position, bring shoulders up to ears. Hold briefly and then relax.

 

5.       Have Proper Ergonomics Training

 Taking a class on ergonomics can give your company the in-depth knowledge you need to keep your workforce functioning at an optimal level. Organizations like the National Safety Council or OSHA, along with universities and private organizations, all offer ergonomics training. You may also contact occupational physiotherapy professionals, like Connect Physical Health, for advice on preventing and healing any musculoskeletal ailments that occur in the workplace. Just being aware of ergonomics safety can greatly impact your office.

For the untrained eye, improper ergonomics can be difficult to detect. We hope this blog post will encourage you to promote better office design and posture in your workplace. With your hard work in office ergonomics, we bet you’ll find improved productivity and happier employees.

Note: The content of this article is for general information purposes and is not meant to replace physiotherapy or medical consultation.

What is the current state of ergonomics in your workplace? How do you think improved ergonomics could benefit your workforce?

Photo Source: Army Medicine

Government Audits: Readiness is Key

Tuesday, May 24th, 2011

Preparing your company for a government investigation is important as the current administration increases the amount of money and resources allocated to auditing companies from different industries and of various sizes. Although your company might follow correct policies and procedures mandated by the government, communication from a displeased worker or fault-finding town citizen can create cause for an investigator to review your workplace standards.

For some audits, such as an OSHA audit, inspections are conducted without advance warning to the organization, so attentiveness to rules and regulations is vital. Creating an action plan for the possibility of an inspection is critical to avoiding costs, penalties and loss of credibility associated with a bad review. Here are a few tips that are applicable to all audits and will ensure a successful evaluation:

  1. Keep Staff Informed! Even though some audits occur without warning, audits or investigations that are expected should be on everyone’s radar. Managers should be aware of the scope of the audit and when it is slated to take place. Company leadership should also inform employees that cooperating with the auditor is necessary to ensure a smooth review process.
  2. Organize! Organize! Organize! Employee documentation, computer files, financial information and similar records should be neatly arranged and easily accessible for the auditor. Retrieve records kept at off-site locations as well. Organizing documents before the auditor’s arrival will allow you to identify and locate missing or misfiled information. Failure to keep records readily available can result in a slower investigation process or several follow-up visits from the auditor.
  3. Take Interviews Seriously! No matter which type of audit your company encounters, preparing for questions that might arise is crucial. Some report that the initial management interview is the most influential part of the process, because it sets the course for the remainder of the audit. Demonstrating preparation during this component will alert the auditor that your company takes the investigation process seriously. For interviews with employees, allow the auditor to speak with them during work hours to avoid contacting them at home. Although you should avoid explicitly telling your employees what to do during an interview, it is important to make them aware of their rights during the process.

CAI offers an Investigation Survival Webinar Series for more information and tips that apply to audits. The program includes seven 90-minute webinars designed to guide you through various government investigations, including ICE, EEOC, Wage and Hour, and OSHA audits. Led by experienced professionals who have supported many employers through different investigations, the series will help answer any specific questions you have concerning audits. You can take the courses individually, or you can register for all seven and receive a volume discount.

For additional information or to register, please visit www.capital.org and use the search code CISWS.

Photos Source: erix!

Emergency Action Plans: Three Reasons Why Your Company Should Have One

Thursday, October 21st, 2010

An Emergency Action Plan, or EAP, is required by OSHA standards to facilitate and organize employer and employee actions during workplace emergencies. According to OSHA guidelines, an EAP should include at minimum the following:

  • Procedures for reporting a fire or other emergency;
  • Procedures for emergency evacuation, including type of evacuation and exit route assignments;
  • Procedures to be followed by employees who remain to operate critical plant operations before they evacuate;
  • Procedures to account for all employees after evacuation;
  • Procedures to be followed by employees performing rescue or medical duties; and
  • The name or job title of every employee who may be contacted by employees who need more information about the plan or an explanation of their duties under the plan.

Companies with 10 or fewer employees do not have to write their plan out. However, in all situations, it is recommended that drills occur so that employees know where to go and what to do during a calamity.

There are three key reasons your company needs to set up an EAP beside the OSHA requirements:

1)     It enhances your company’s ability to recover from financial losses, damages to equipment or products or business interruption. For example, if all of your employees know how to operate a fire extinguisher properly, they can stop a flame from becoming an inferno that can burn up part or all of your building.

2)     It bonds management and employees by having them share responsibilities in the plan. Assigning duties such as who will be in charge of leading the safe evacuation empowers employees, and meeting to discuss modifications in the EAP as needed makes them stakeholders in the company’s activities.

3)     It establishes favorable relationships with law enforcement leaders and firefighters who know you have an EAP and have communicated well the details of it with your employees. Think of the number of times you have seen a disaster happen at a business and news coverage has included a sound bite of an official saying it was obvious the company was not prepared for what occurred. That scenario can be prevented with you being proactive in setting up your EAP.

For additional information on emergency action plans and how they can benefit you and your company, please call a member of CAI’s Advice and Counsel team at (919) 878-9222 or (336) 668-7746.

Photo Source: Chris Violet

How to Avoid Employee Lawsuits

Tuesday, October 5th, 2010

While the 2010 numbers will not be available until early 2011, Jury Verdict Research reported that the median award for all employment-related claims in 2009 ($326,640) was 60 percent more than it was in 2008.

In addition it’s widely expected that the number of employee lawsuits will continue to increase, in part due to the recession.  Another contributor to that increase is the growing presence of attorneys who specialize in filing lawsuits for employees with grievances against employers, and not just claims regarding hiring/firing practices, but also charges of discrimination, defamation and several other issues.

An employee lawsuit can deplete your time and money when those resources should be better spent. It also can result in substantial damages to your business should you lose the suit.

To minimize the likelihood of an employee lawsuit happening in the first place, take the following actions:

1)     Treat all employees with fairness, dignity and respect. Create an atmosphere of positive employee-employer relations.

2)     Have signed documentation from the employee that he or she has read the employee handbook and agrees to follow it. The handbook should include an antidiscrimination and harassment policy as well.

3)     Communicate company policies on a continual basis. Do not just give employees a handbook and never address the policies again.

4)     Put safety standards into place and make sure employees know they exist. The N.C. Department of Labor has a guide explaining how OSHA standards work in the state and what employers can do to comply with them.

5)     Train your managers on workplace laws. Make sure they are aware of the many laws that apply to the workplace and that they follow them stringently.

6)     Consistently enforce company policies. Do not let some employees slide while disciplining others for the same violation.

7)     Document the progressive disciplinary process. Notify the employee in each case about what they did wrong along with filing this information securely.

Even if you follow all seven steps above you may still be sued by an employee.  You may want to check with your insurance carrier to see if they offer employment practice liability insurance. More insurers are offering this benefit. Details on what a plan can cover can be found at the Insurance Information Institute website.

For additional information on how to avoid employee lawsuits, please call a member of CAI’s Advice and Counsel team at (919) 878-9222 or (336) 668-7746.

Photo Source: U.S. Department of Defense

Five Things N.C. Employers Need to Know about OSHA Inspections

Thursday, May 13th, 2010

Participants in CAI’s latest Members Only event, Ask the Expert: The OSHA Inspector Cometh, were treated to a presentation rich with useful tips by David Coble, president of Coble, Taylor & Jones Safety Associates, LLC. His past life as an NC OSHA inspector contributed to his real-life examples of employer violations, and steps employers may take to avoid problems.

Below are five important points he made about OSHA inspections:

Triggers for an OSHA inspection. On-site inspections are initiated when there are reports of imminent danger (example – locked exits), catastrophic or fatal events (hospitalization of three or more employees and/or an employee death), employee complaints submitted in writing, or special OSHA targeting programs (example – employers with a lost workday incident rate of 14 days or greater).

When the inspector arrives. The receptionist should ask for the inspector’s identification, get his/her name and notify management immediately.  A ranking manager should meet with the inspector and be respectful and cooperative.  Do not require a search warrant.  It will only briefly delay the inspection and is likely to result in an antagonistic relationship with the inspector.

Documentation typically asked for. Inspectors typically ask for OSHA 300 logs for the past two years (although they can ask for up to five years), as well as medical records, OSHA-required written programs, the location of training, inspection and medical records, and the facility safety and health manual.

During the inspection. The employer representative should listen attentively to the inspector, write down areas noted and comments, take pictures of the same areas that the inspector does, and take the same readings and samples that the inspector takes (to confirm readings in case the inspector’s equipment is not calibrated).

Employer response to citation(s). Employers may request an informal conference and contest a citation, penalty or abatement date prior to the citation and up to 15 days after citation.  A participant in the program cited the ability to reduce penalties during this process.  An employer may also accept the citation, pay the penalties and correct the violation.

For more information about OSHA, visit www.osha.gov or www.nclabor.com, or call a member of CAI’s Advice and Counsel team at 919-878-9222 (Raleigh) or 336-668-7746 (Greensboro).

Photo Source: Sylvar