Case Studies

In today’s challenging economic times, improvements in operations become critical to staying in business. Money spent on preventable work-related injuries, or losses to productivity, affect the bottom line revenue of a facility. The following evidence-based case studies are a sampling of projects carried out by Susan Murphey, principal of Essential WorkWellness. These projects demonstrate how modifying work practices and including equipment that reduces injury can improve productivity and outcomes, ultimately improving workplace satisfaction and bottom line finances.

Participatory Ergonomics Training: Case Study

Industry: Healthcare, Environmental Services

Employees: 100

Problem: These 100 workers represent 3.3% of the total workforce of this community hospital, yet they sustain 30% of all injuries for the institution. Primary risk-producing tasks are related to the handling of soiled linen. Abatement methods tried previously have failed to achieve desired results. Many workers are older, working two jobs and speak English as a second language (ESL). Work safety training has been difficult to achieve.

Goal: The goal of this project was to evaluate the current laundry collection process and develop hazard assessments and worker input to develop an alternative approach in order to reduce worker exposure to acute and cumulative risk factors associated with injury.

Solution: Provided multi-format in-service training in body mechanics and injury avoidance. A combination of learning styles was accommodated through the use of verbal, visual and auditory communication. Employees were provided tools for participating in their own risk assessment and safety management. A participatory approach was used in establishing best practices for handling soiled linen once necessary engineering controls were implemented. A video tape of best practices was made, utilizing department staff.

Success: Prior to the training, 44% said they’d had more than an average amount of prior work safety training, and 54% said their prior training was highly effective, however, only 38% felt confident with their understanding of postural alignment as it relates to work safety. Following the training, 76% felt that their understanding of postural alignment as it relates to work safety was above average, and 88% felt confident that they could take the information back into their work environment and apply it.

Of note: 50% of the attendees were of ESL designation, with 11 different languages represented (although some did not specify their native language).

Impact: Follow up showed that 50% of attendees actively used the body mechanics training for problem solving in their work environment, demonstrating a successful start to an ergonomics program driven by employee participation. This project resulted in a $41K savings related to direct injury costs for the first six months of the program. Reported injuries were down slightly for 2009, but more importantly, the severity of injuries was down significantly.

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Participatory Ergonomics Training: Case Study

Industry: Healthcare, Diagnostic Medical Sonography Ergonomic Detailing Training. Work safety problem solving techniques were provided for ultrasound staff, specific to the ergonomic concerns in their work environment. A series of six 1-hour training sessions were provided in an in-service and hands-on format, held at the work site, with the opportunity for staff to walk through the concepts presented, utilizing their own workstation equipment.

Training included:

a. Understanding and recognizing risks for work-related injury in sonography
b. Ergonomic optimization of current exam table, chair, U/S system
c. The use of adaptive equipment to reduce risks for work-related injury
d. Proper positioning & alternate scan techniques for the reduction of risk for injury
e. Countermeasure exercise for reducing exposure to risk factors
f. Root cause analysis for problems solving of ergonomic concerns

Problem: These workers represent a highly skilled workforce, providing high level services not available at all sites. Historically, they sustain a rate of work related injury greater than 80%. Replacement staff is not readily available due to the specific expertise of these workers.

Solution: Provided multi-format in-service training in body mechanics and injury avoidance. A combination of learning styles was accommodated through the use of verbal, visual and auditory communication. Employees were provided tools for participating in their own risk assessment and problem solving for work safety solutions.

Initial investigation: Prior to the training, it was note that none of the staff had received previous work safety training. However, they all felt that had an average understanding of postural alignment as it related to the prevention of work related injury. And yet, 100% reported injury symptoms related to their current job. Of note, each sonographer felt there was a direct correlation between the severity of their symptoms and scheduling that included a succession of physically challenging exams, such as numerous deep abdominal vascular or nuchal translucency studies in a row.

Training results: The countermeasure exercise held in Session 2 provided an opportunity to apply principles learned in the initial training. There was a 87.5% success rate, with another 12.5% reported as “sometimes” successful in modifying their posture through adjusting the patient position, table height, machine position, etc.

Post training: Following the training, 100% of staff noted a decrease in work-related pain symptoms as a result of the modifications they made to their workstation and work practices. All staff members felt that their understanding of postural alignment as it relates to work safety was now above average, and all staff (100%) felt confident that they could take the information back into their work environment and apply it. Most importantly, all participating staff members were using the principles learned on a daily basis (5-7 days/week).

Sustainability: The sonographers who participated in this training now have a toolkit for problem solving ergonomic challenges related to their work. The Quick Check Risk Assessment used to evaluate their work process and identify non-neutral postures of potential risk, the Countermeasure Exercises used to track attempts to solve non-neutral posture concerns using adaptive equipment and modification of workstation set-ups, the Root Cause Analysis problem-solving exercise used to identify the root cause of problem, and the Training Workbook handouts provided to each staff member in attendance.

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