Term Paper: Back Safety in the Workplace

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¶ … pain and spinal disorder at the workplace and to examine the workplace health hazards in detail.

Workplace and human activities in general are replete with hazards to the body. Everyday living poses hazards at home and office in the roads and at the playground. However specific work that requires handling loads, sitting at a chair for long durations and staring at a monitor for a long time can cause specific injuries which ought to be guarded against. This coupled with poor consideration of body posture and the ergonomic design of furniture can add to the stress. Ergonomic seating and proper work methods can help prevent injuries. Back pain is a colossal condition that affects a large number of people. Apart from the personal pain to individuals, it is also costly in terms of missed man-days and loss of earning power. It is estimated that in the United States and all over the world, the most prevalent injuries occur in the musculoskeletal system especially in the back. More than a million persons are affected by on account of suffering back pain. Back injuries also are the cause of litigation running into billions of dollars annually. The pain causes loss of earning and deteriorates the quality of life. (Back Injuries in the Workplace)

If the bad posture and the other causes that cause the malady are known, then why do so many people suffer from it? That is a question that can have answers which involve personal attitude of individuals to their work and their health. Mostly organizations like hospitals and factories issue warnings and safety measures and sometimes have training programs in all the related aspects of workplace health maintenance. But in most cases the individuals act disobeying the regulations and requirements. One simple example is of people smoking in a hospital section that disallows smoking. While the system or the workplace providers can provide the knowledge, and the necessary climate and equipment to keep the employee from harm it is the employee who ultimately has to use the means to ward off potential hazards. There is a responsibility cast on the people who work together to take reasonable precautions to eliminate hazards attendant to their calling, and it is often this human failing that causes the workplace related sickness. A lack of understanding and discipline can cause avoidable injuries and pain. (Wilkinson, 27)

If an indifferent attitude is the cause of the injury, ignorance can be a greater factor. Where there were no guidelines for carrying weights it was discovered that it resulted in the deformity of the spine. Railroad station porters are not exactly educated in the way of carrying loads. A study conducted by Kelkar, O'Callaghan and others showed that in the case of railroad porters who carried weights it was observed that there was 'Occupational trauma causing spinal deformities'. (Kelkar; O'Callaghan; Lovblad, 738) This is said to be a condition known as 'asymptomatic cervical spinal deformity' and was seen in railway porters and is claimed to be a chronic occupational trauma. (Kelkar; O'Callaghan; Lovblad, 738) Thus occupations which require lifting loads also require that the worker is taught and trained in the best possible methods of lifting loads in such a way that the spine is not affected. In many cases the principal problem is with the individual and rarely with the occupation. Usually ignorance and indifference largely contribute to workplace health hazards. It is pertinent to note that an elite workplace like the Berkeley Lab has a great share of injuries to workers. Picture 1 in the Appendix gives an idea about this.

Hazards

The fatality rate from work related injuries which can be authentic is equally alarming. For a small country a fatality rate of over 1.7 for every hundred thousand employee is a high rate and in the other countries it could be much more. The issue having been discussed and there being a better awareness among employees and the regulations passed in this regard by the governments have greatly reduced work place injuries and accidents in the last decade. (Pheasant, 41) There is a very great role to be played by the science of ergonomics in the control of work related injuries and pain. This aspect is developing as a specialized branch of study. In the last few decades, great importance has been given to ergonomic designs of the tools, settings and workplace. It also involves very specific consideration of individual requirements at work. The modern technology and the changes it has effected at the workplace lays greater stress on the need to study the impact of the modern systems and work flows. All processes are now seen in the light of super systems and work flow pipes that create patterns of work with specific requirements and environment within the system. (Mccabe, 484)

The importance of ergonomics thus shifts the workplace considerations from a purely technical and economic system to a more comprehensive 'socio-technical system' which includes the welfare of the elements of the system. Thus in designing the modern system the principle is to account for all requisites including the architecture, the diversity, processes and performance of the system with safety. The emphasis is on team work and effective interaction of man and machine. (Mccabe, 485) Having thus emphasized on the dangers, and the possible hazards at the workplace, it is now important to see the effects of back pain in the worker and what it means to the individual's body. Back pain appears to be the most suffered condition.

Health Effects of Hazards

Heavy works like carrying, dragging, pulling or pushing and handling loads can be heavy work. So can lifting loads, which require effort. This type of work cause lesions in the muscles and also causes wear and tear of the bones. The bones affected are lumbar intervertebral discs and the skeletal system. These are the primary causes of back pain. The back pain is common from the age group of twenty to fifty and is often noticed in occupations that involve physical labor, or farmers and porters, nurses and others required to port weights. Over exertion is also a cause for this type of injuries. (Kroemer; Grandjean, 129) an understanding of the health effects of hazards could be understood from Table 3 given in the appendix. These hazards are avoidable and are often caused by careless work place behavior. There could be also unsafe situations that are generic to the activity in the workplace. For example where there is a need to store goods in racks as in warehouses, the individual who may be employed for this purpose could be carrying weights and bending up and down a number of times. These may be unsafe activities and working conditions that cause the pain.

Unsafe acts and conditions

In a material handling situation as in a warehouse for example, the materials handling techniques and practice that usually involves carrying and lifting, and pushing or standing at odd postures may be the cause of illness. There may be unsafe acts and the situation in the warehouse may also be unsafe. Thus the ware house ought to be redesigned to minimize the hazard. This can apply to hospitals and any work place where loads are handled. (the Safety Zone) You may look at picture 2 in the appendix for a better understanding. Ergonomics in such cases requires design of the receptacles and also placing those items used often on a lower level and thus minimize the injurious actions. For such systems as warehouses the OSHA has a system of scoring injuries and the injury less system scores ten. Most companies confirm to the OSHA requirements in training and educating the employee on the safety measures. (the Safety Zone)

However the hazards persist and require a complicated redefinition of the workplace itself as in the case of warehouses. If the work place is a generator of back pain, we are aware of the methods of tackling that to some extent. But we will be surprised to know that little children are victims of back pain when they go to school. It is reported that children as young as fourteen years are the victims of this disease, and there are risks in schools too. The culprit in the case of children is the sitting postures at the school. (Mccabe, 35) Back pains come with the teenage years or later and twenty nine percent of children suffer from this condition. Some of the causes are bad postures, and the conditions of the furniture. Hazards thus are present for all persons and at all places at the school, home or office. Individuals have to take care of their backs, but the governments all over are also keen on protecting people from injuries. Number of legal requirements and statutes has been passed to enforce safety at the work place. Combined with the awareness of individuals these legal requirements are bound to help lower the risk of pain and injury.

Laws & / or regulations

The… [END OF PREVIEW]

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