Ergonomics: Potential Solutions for Prevention
Ergonomics for the Prevention of Musculoskeletal Disorders: Guidelines for Retail Grocery Stores
Examples of potential solutions for various concerns are located in the Implementing Solutions section of these guidelines.
Address Reports of Injuries
The solutions recommended in these guidelines are intended to address factors that are believed to be associated with MSDs in grocery stores. They are not a guarantee against any future injury occurring. Grocery stores rarely have on-site medical staff to care for injured or ill employees. Therefore, store managers or other designated individuals should establish a procedure for receiving reports of injuries and responding to them appropriately. Early intervention is an effective method of handling potential injuries. Employees should report injuries early so that action can be taken to address any potential job-related issues. Medical treatment and possible work restrictions could be necessary, but attention should be paid to addressing root problems early to avoid more costly actions if injuries are left unaddressed (9, 10, 11).
OSHA's injury and illness recording and reporting regulation (29 CFR 1904) requires employers to keep records of work-related injuries and illnesses. These reports can help the retail grocery store identify problem areas and evaluate ergonomic efforts. Federal and state laws prohibit discriminating against employees who report a work related injury or illness. 29 U.S.C. 660(c)
Sometimes the muscle soreness employees experience when starting or returning to a job can be confused with symptoms of MSD injuries. In most cases muscle soreness from conditioning lasts only a few days. Temporary muscle soreness occurs most often with new employees or workers who are returning to a job after several weeks away. When the symptoms linger or gradually get worse, an MSD may be developing.
Training is critical for employers and employees to safely use the solutions identified in these guidelines. Training should be provided in a manner and language that all employees can understand. There are many ways employers can integrate ergonomics training into regular workplace activities, such as new employee orientation or at staff, department, or shift meetings. There are also many sources of training materials, including OSHA, trade associations, and insurance companies. OSHA recommends training for grocery store employees that provides:
Knowledge of the work tasks that may lead to pain or injury;
Understanding of the proper tools and work practices for tasks that employees will be performing;
The ability to recognize MSDs and their early indications;
The advantages of addressing early indications of MSDs before serious injury has developed; and
Awareness of the grocery store's procedures for reporting work-related injuries and illnesses as required by OSHA's injury and illness recording and reporting regulation (29 CFR 1904).
OSHA also recommends that management and supervisory staff who coordinate and direct ergonomics efforts receive training to give them the knowledge to effectively carry out their responsibilities. These designated staff members will benefit from information and training that will allow them to:
Appropriately use checklists and other tools to analyze tasks in the grocery store;
Address problems by selecting proper equipment and work practices;
Identify the potential benefits of specific workplace changes;
Help other workers implement solutions; and
Assess the effectiveness of ergonomics efforts.
Grocery store employees will also benefit from refresher training to address new developments in the workplace and to reinforce knowledge acquired in the initial training.
OSHA recommends that grocery stores evaluate the effectiveness of their ergonomic efforts and follow-up on unresolved problems. Evaluation and follow-up help sustain continuous improvement in reducing injuries and illnesses, track the effectiveness of specific ergonomic solutions, identify new problems, and show areas where further attention is needed. Grocery managers can use the same methods they use to identify ergonomic concerns (such as OSHA 300 and 301 injury and illness information, workers' compensation records, employee interviews, and observation of workplace conditions) to evaluate progress (10, 11). Employers can also keep a list of activities and improvements to track what has been accomplished and provide data on the effectiveness of the initiatives.
How often an employer evaluates the program will vary by the size and complexity of the facility. Management should revise the program in response to identified deficiencies and communicate the results of the program evaluation and any program revisions to employees.
(9) Cohen, A., C. Gjessing, L. Fine, B. Bernard, and J. McGlothlin. Elements of Ergonomics Programs. March 1997. National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH). Publication # 97-117.
(10) Menzel, N. 1994. Workers' Comp Management from A to Z. OEM Press. Chapters 11, 12, 19.
(11) Magyar, S. Jr. 1999. "Medical claim management." Professional Safety. March.
Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA)
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