Ergonomics is the study of people and their interaction with the elements of their job or task including equipment, tools, facilities, processes, and environment. It is a multidisciplinary field of study integrating industrial psychology, engineering, medicine, and design.
In a more practical sense, ergonomics is the science of human comfort. When aspects of the work or workplace insult the human body, the result is often a musculoskeletal disorder (MSD). To help avoid MSDs, work demands should not exceed the physical capabilities of the worker.
MSDs are also known by several other names including:
- CTDs (cumulative trauma disorders)
- RSIs (repetitive stress or repetitive strain injuries)
- RMIs (repetitive motion injuries)
- Overuse syndrome
The most common, recognizable name for MSDs is cumulative trauma disorders or CTDs. Whatever the name used, these injuries belong to a family or group of wear and tear illnesses that can affect muscles, nerves, tendons, ligaments, joints, cartilage, blood vessels or spinal discs of the body. MSDs do not include slips, trips and falls, cuts, motor vehicle accidents or other similar accidents; although a close look at the reasons for acute injuries often reveals design problems that can be corrected.
It is the policy of Volunteer State Community College to provide all employees with a safe and healthy workplace. A proactive ergonomics guide is integrated into our facility's written safety and health program.
The purpose of an ergonomics program is to apply ergonomic principles to the workplace in an effort to reduce the number and severity of MSDs, thus decreasing workers' compensation claims and, where possible, increase productivity, quality, and efficiency. An ergonomically sound work environment maximizes employee comfort while minimizing the risk of undue physical stress.
A proactive approach focuses on making changes when risks have already been identified, as well as incorporating ergonomics into the design phase of a new facility or process.
Vol State is committed to the ergonomics process and supports efforts for the identification and control of ergonomic risk factors.
Faculty and Staff represent an essential element to the success of the ergonomics program. Employees will be solicited for their input and assistance with identifying ergonomic risk factors, worksite evaluations, development and implementation of controls, and training.
Collecting data that identifies injury and illness trends is called surveillance. Surveillance can be either passive or active. Conducting a records review is an example of passive surveillance, which looks at existing data such as OSHA Logs, workers' compensation claims, trips to the medical facility, and absentee records. Active surveillance uses observations, interviews, surveys, questionnaires, checklists, and formal worksite evaluation tools to identify specific high-risk activities. Vol State will be using both passive and active surveillance to identify problem jobs.
Worksite evaluations are recommended when an employee reports an MSD sign or symptom and when jobs, processes, or work activities have been identified which may cause or aggravate MSDs. Work-related risk factors to be considered in the evaluation process include, but are not limited to:
- Physical risk factors including force, postures (awkward and static), static loading and sustained exertion, fatigue, repetition, contact stress, extreme temperatures, and vibration.
- Administrative issues including job rotation/enlargement, inadequate staffing, excessive overtime, inadequate or lack of rest breaks, stress from deadlines, lack of training, work pace, work methods, and psychosocial issues.
- Environmental risk factors including noise, lighting, glare, air quality, temperature, humidity, and personal protective equipment and clothing.
- Combination of risk factor such as, but not limited to, highly repetitive, forceful work with no job rotation or precision work in a dimly lit room.
Various methods will be used to evaluate problem jobs including:
- Walk-through and observations
- Employee interviews
- Surveys and questionnaires
- Worksite evaluations
Vol State will take steps to identify ergonomic risk factors and reduce hazards by using the following guidelines:
- Engineering controls - The most desirable and reliable means to reduce workplace exposure to potential harmful effects. This is achieved by focusing on the physical modifications of jobs, workstations, tools, equipment, or processes.
- Administrative controls - This means controlling or preventing workplace exposure to potentially harmful effects by implementing administrative changes such as job rotation, job enlargement, rest breaks, adjustment of pace, redesign of methods, and worker education.
- Personal protective equipment (PPE) - Not recognized as an effective means of controlling hazards and does not take the place of engineering or administrative controls. Acceptable forms of PPE include kneepads and various types of gloves including anti-vibration.
MSD (Medical) Management
Pursuant to the law, Volunteer State Community College provides medical care to all employees injured at work. Vol State maintains a good working relationship with our medical care providers.
In the event of a work-related injury or illness, the health care provider/professional will:
- provide diagnosis and treatment for Vol State employees;
- determine if reported MSD signs or symptoms are work-related;
- refer injured Vol State employees to other clinical resources or therapy or rehabilitation;
- provide Volunteer State Community College with timely work status reports, and;
- develop a positive working relationship with our workers' compensation carrier, Sedgwick Claims Management Services.
In order to ensure that issues have been addressed and that new problems have not been created, monitoring and evaluation will be conducted on an on-going basis. The methods include use of individual interviews and checklists to reevaluate the job/task to ensure that risks have been reduced, minimized, or eliminated.
Every employee of Volunteer State Community College is responsible for conducting himself/herself in accordance with these guidelines. All employees will:
- when provided, use the appropriate tools, equipment, parts, materials, and procedures in the manner established;
- ensure that equipment is properly maintained in good condition and when not, report immediately;
- report MSD signs or symptoms and work-related MSD hazards to the supervisor as early as possible to facilitate medical treatment and proactive interventions, and;
- take responsibility in their personal health and safety.