January 03, 2012
It’s the new year and many people are heading into 2012 resolved to end bad habits or start good ones.
If you’re looking for a great new habit for the workplace, check out Workplace Warm-up and Stretches from the FIOSA-MIOSA Safety Alliance.
It describes how pre-shift stretching can reduce the risk of musculoskeletal injuries (MSIs) by
* Increasing blood flow to muscle tissue
* Reducing muscle tension
* Developing body awareness
* Increasing ability to focus
Considering that back strain accounts for nearly 25 percent of all WorkSafeBC claims, I’d say this kind of simple stretching program is well worth the time and effort it takes to get workers (or your employer) interested.
The Safety Alliance info sheet reminds employers that “it is important to consult with employees as they often have excellent ideas for improvement. By developing the program collaboratively with workers, workers are more likely to accept other changes such as job rotation or proper lifting techniques.”
Your good intentions for 2012?
Do you have any resolutions you’d like to share? Tell me by commenting below, and I will check back and encourage you. If you’re already participating in a workplace stretching program, I’d love to hear how it’s going.
October 20, 2011
As many as one in five people experiences chronic pain, says this Vancouver Sun article and many other sources. They were injured at work, in vehicles, living with degenerative diseases, genetic conditions, and unknown causes.
“Pain is a legitimate illness that affects a wide swath of the population,” said Senator Kelvin Ogilvie, chair of the Senate committee reviewing the federal-provincial health accord. Along with patients’ groups and health professionals, he is advocating for prevention, early intervention, patient support, and better pain care in the community, says the article.
When people think you’re faking it
Since pain is invisible it’s often hard to prove to doctors, employers, insurers, or anyone else who needs to know why you aren’t working. One person told SunMedia what it’s often like to describe his suffering.
“The disbelief, the jeering, the snide commentary, and most especially, the fact that people think you are lying to get something out of it. No one but another person who has chronic pain can possibly understand how bad it is.”
Injured workers’ pain
Many injured workers know the feeling of pain that shuts down their lives – but it usually goes away. A few months ago, I wrote a post about a worker who tried to do an early return-to-work program, but suffered too much pain to continue. She told her case manager the pain was so bad she was crying at work, and she was transferred to a physio/pain management program instead.
A reader emailed me privately about the post and praised the compassion of our BC system for recognizing the worker’s pain and accommodating it. She lamented her province did not recognize pain as a legitimate cause for stopping an RTW program if there were no obvious sources for the pain.
Hopefully Ogilvie will stir a wave of change that makes things easier for people who are already suffering enough. Canada’s top pain scientists are meeting with Ogilvie’s committee – and I’ll be interested to see what is recommended in the review of the federal-provincial health accord.
For more info, see:
Chronic Pain Factsheet – from the BC Ministry of Labour, Citizens’ Services and Open Government
September 22, 2011
When you’re pushing carts, making beds, lifting, and bending, it’s important to use the best ergonomics possible and take precautions to avoid slips, trips, and falls.
Most room cleaners are women, many are immigrants, and their injury rate is the highest among hotel workers.
NIOSH advises organizations to “identify and evaluate hazards and adopt interventions to prevent work-related injuries and illnesses in the hotel environment” – and this is exactly what a group of hotel industry reps is doing in BC.
Hotel safety in BC
Trina Wright is the program manager, industry health and safety at go2 – the BC tourism and hospitality industry’s human resource association. go2 is also the industry’s health & safety resource and COR certifying partner.
Trina facilitates an industry health & safety technical advisory committee of general managers, HR and safety professionals from BC hotel properties. The group is working together to identify key accidents for the hotel sector and develop strategies for prevention.
“We will aid the rest of the sector in reducing their injury rate, cost, and duration,” Trina said via email. “One of our key focuses this year is reducing the injury rate and duration for housekeeping staff.”
Michael King is a member of the technical advisory committee. He’s the safety and loss prevention manager for Fairmont Waterfront Hotel in Vancouver, where he and his colleagues have been testing an assistive device for workers who change beds. It’s called BedToolzzz and some Fairmont workers are trained to use it. Michael said they may use it for training and return-to-work programs.
I asked Michael how changing beds can pose an ergonomic hazard.
“In most guest rooms the design aspect takes precedent over the practicality of cleaning a room, which means that rooms are often tightly configured with little space between the bed and the bedside tables,” Michael wrote. “This makes access to the head area and corner of the bed very tricky unless excellent ergonomics are used.”
go2 also has a technical advisory committee looking at workers’ safety on BC’s 40 ski hills – so stay tuned for more.
More info on room cleaner safety
Preventing Injuries to Room Attendants from WorkSafeBC
Hotel Housekeeping – OSH Answers from CCOHS
September 13, 2011
Every writer needs a good chair.
That gem of advice is from my university professor 20 years ago – and I’ve always kept it in mind. Without a good chair, he said, writers may sit awkwardly, overstraining our muscles. Doing this for many years can lead to repetitive strain injuries.
I recalled my teacher’s advice when I started feeling extra muscle stiffness in my upper back. It was time for a new chair at my home office.
I asked Facebook: “What’s the best ergonomic chair?” and someone suggested an Aeron chair by Herman Miller. It had positive reviews online, and I ended up finding one, “gently used,” on Craigslist from a nearby store that liquidates office furniture.
How to adjust your chair
When I got the chair home, I referred to the WorkSafeBC manual How to Make Your Computer Workstation Fit You and adjusted the height of my chair and monitor as recommended.
But now, when I look at my photo – compared to the diagram – I see I am too far forward in my chair, without proper back support. I’ll have to fine tune my setup – along with being mindful of my posture, stretching, exercising, and drinking more water and less coffee.
What more can I do?
Despite my efforts, I still get a bit of upper back stiffness, though nothing too bad. Maybe it strains muscles when I use my laptop and/or iPhone in my car or at a cafe because I have to tilt my head downwards to see their screens.
I’d like to ask an ergonomist what more I can do. How can I make my workstation even better? What’s an ergonomic way to use laptops on the go? Please share your suggestions or links.
September 09, 2011
In the workplace, people who lift heavy loads should be careful to avoid overexertion injuries – and the same thing goes for kids carrying heavy backpacks.
For workers, WorkSafeBC offers a Lift/Lower Calculator to determine safe load limits. Kids, as a rule, should not carry more than 10 to 15 percent of their own body-weight in their backpacks.
But maybe some people don’t realize this, because I see lots of kids heading back to school wearing great, big backpacks. It seems like they are toting much more than I ever did at that age – and sadly, this can lead to chronic back problems later in life, according to a story in The Tribune (and many other articles on this important topic).
“When the development of the muscular system is messed up that can lead to having bad posture,” chiropractor Jacqueline Lightbourn told The Tribune. “Bad posture is the main contributor to low back pain, arthritis, disc problems and anything to do with the back, neck, and mid-back.”
Students need to stop transporting so many heavy things – and I’d like to see their parents, schools, and caregivers helping to coordinate this. People can brainstorm solutions and arrangements can be made.
Choosing the right backpack
The American Academy of Pediatric Surgeons recommends these features in a backpack:
* Wide, padded shoulder straps
* Two shoulder straps
* Padded back
* Waist strap
* Lightweight backpack
* Rolling backpack
For more information on choosing and using backpacks, check out:
Pack it Light, Wear it Right – includes a poster, pamphlets and fact sheets for distribution to children and parents (that can be customized for individual school districts) from the BC Chiropractic Association
BACK FACTS: Backpacks from the Canadian Chiropractic Association
Lightening the Load: Tips for Backpack Safety from Canadian Chiropractor magazine
Backpack Strategies for Parents and Students from The American Occupational Therapy Association
Backpack Safety Awareness from the Virginia Chiropractic Association