Not Safe Enough

My grandfather was involved in two very serious accidents as a farmer. In the first, his little brother was killed as the two of them rode the wagon to do chores. In the second, his tractor blew up, burning his entire body. My grandmother couldn’t figure out who that dark man was walking through the crops straight to her.

Luckily, he recovered.

Farming was very dangerous, much less so then. Farm accidents still happen, and many are fatal.

As people left farms to move to the city, they took jobs in manufacturing. It was known until recently as dark, dank, and dangerous. It took OSHA and unions to bring safer work environments to manufacturing, but we still have a long way to go.

Better manufacturers, the only ones I would want to work with, rarely have recordable incidents. Many look at “near-misses” now.

I’m proud of the drastic improvements in safety in manufacturing environments. We’ve addressed many of those we can see.

It’s time to turn to those we don’t see. Ergonomic injuries.

An employee out with a back injury or shoulder strain is not pulling a fast one. She is suffering from the way her job is designed to be done.

In offices, few chairs are ergonomically sound, and many desks and tables are at inappropriate height for safe work. In the factory, reaching, carrying, lifting, lowering and more are all potential causes of ergonomic harm.

If your engineers and maintenance professionals are not trained on ergonomic design, how can they be expected to provide a safe work environment for everyone.

I encourage you to take the following two actions: (1) do not sign a capital expenditure request until you are comfortable that every aspect of design, operation, maintenance, and material handling have considered ergonomics and eliminated poor work processes that will lead to injury, and (2) one day per week, walk through your operations to specifically observe work. Look for anything that requires reaching, lifting/carrying/lowering of anything over a few pounds, and work with the employees to figure out how to eliminate the unsafe practice.

Yes, I said “a few pounds,” not the 25 or 40 pounds many discuss. Strength is one thing; ergonomically safe another entirely. If you think it’s no big deal, I invite you to do a job handling over 25 pounds repeatedly throughout the day.

No, I don’t. I don’t want you to get a soft tissue injury that can be as serious as those lost fingers or bruises that are easier to see.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.