Category Archives: Risk Mitigation

Getting Beyond Low Hanging Fruit

How Accountable is Your Organization?

Employee health and safety professionals understand the importance of safety in the workplace.  They know that safety comes in all shapes and sizes.  Yet, when bad decisions are made by management regarding safe procedures such as lock out tag out, what are some of the possible outcomes? Well, this:

OSHA case study: How some companies still flout safety to gain economic advantage

In this OSHA case study, luckily there were no severe injuries.  But what was just as detrimental was the non-verbal but loud and clear message to the employees: “We don’t really care about you.  It’s about how fast the product can be produced!”

Robotics assist in many ways.  One way is to reduce possible awkward positions and sustained awkward positions of employees. When dangerous short cuts are imposed like the one outlined in the OSHA case study— allowing employees to climb into the robotics cage with the robot still moving—what else is an employee to think?

Couple the OSHA case study with this one, posted in the same timeframe in EHS Today:

SLC 2018: Engaging the Workforce Is a Key to Health & Safety Excellence

In this article, Dr. Fulwiher makes excellent points and suggestions.  Our take home, since this is what our organization tends to witness, is this statement of Dr. Fulwiher’s:

This requires a transformation in the leadership of the organization, be it a for- profit or nonprofit, understanding the need to become more transformational and less transactional.” 

This is very true, as most top executives and middle managers are truly only focused on the output in the long run.

People DO NOT CARE how much you know
until they know HOW MUCH YOU CARE

So many articles continue to revolve around this mantra.  And it is true, isn’t it?  So, what can supervisors, employees, and middle managers do to demonstrate this at work and also outside of work?

  • Take an extra 45 seconds to dialogue with any colleague, co-worker, and more importantly, someone you do not know well.
  • When conversing, look them in the eye and notice the color of their eyes. Most of us don’t look at those we’re talking with in the eye.
  • You can smile when talking.  Even if the conversation is a critical point, smiling shows that you do care, and also places the other more at ease.

We should not need classes on this. However it appears that  we do, since there are books, audio tapes, seminars and lectures that all focus on how to become more attentive, genuine, and accountable.

Accountability Starts at Every Level—
in Your Organization and in Your Community

We hear, read, and experience for ourselves the disappointment and frustration when someone is not accountable for something they said or something they said they would do.  We know what it feels like, and we would love the unaccountable people in our lives to become accountable.  Unfortunately, it’s beyond our power to change someone else.

Therefore, the only way to experience change is to change ourselves.  This is what life is about: change.  How can we become our highest selves,  and how can we truly begin to treat others the way we would like to be treated?  Here’s a way to begin in your professional life:

When at work, be accountable.  What does this really mean?  Your “yes” is “yes” and your “no” is “no.”

In a meeting, if you are asked to participate in a project, or asked to assist someone with something small in their project, don’t say, “I’ll see what I can do.”  Either say “yes, I will,” and give them the date by which you’ll provide the information, or say “I can’t,” and provide a reason why.  This is where your accountability starts.  Becoming more direct, detailed and authentic will yield better outcomes in all of your interactions, whether with your supervisor, peers or employees.

As a role model of accountability, you can then begin to challenge your co-workers and colleagues in this area, as well as coach those you supervise to adopt this revolutionary mindset and value.

 

3D printer manufacturing

Innovation Is Not Just for the New and Most Up-to-Date Products for Consumers

Your employees deserve innovation, too.

3D printer manufacturingA recent article in the Harvard Business Review focused on the importance of U.S. firms bringing home their innovation centers—which they’ve shifted overseas right along with manufacturing (Sridhar Kota, et al., 2018). The article additionally points out that the U.S. “has also lost the ability to do the kinds of process improvements that are essential for innovation.” Our expertise and experience tell us that there’s a particular deficit when it comes to factoring in the humans, particularly those on the production line and the assembly floor.

Sports medicine technology and injury prevention innovations and their benefits are not being captured by industry.  Innovations made in data science, virtual technologies, and data collection and manipulation can now reveal, in real time, just how individuals move, thereby creating the platforms for movement retraining and other methods to restore optimal movements in any individual employee.  The impact of poor movement and the benefits of optimal movement aren’t a line item on any profit and loss statement, but they are certainly being felt there.  You’ll never see human movement in a strategy document, either, but you should, and here’s why.

As technology innovations advance, companies can begin to see exponential growth.  However, if these new types of technologies are imbalanced within a company, collisions will begin to occur—in output, life cycles, and elsewhere.  Although these innovations work on paper, they don’t always integrate and succeed on the assembly floor.

An example here would be that engineering innovators are using technologies such as virtual simulators, like 3D printing and other types of technologies.  While on the assembly floor, employees are still required to contort their bodies in order to assemble the product.  Some of the processes can now take longer due to the intricacies of advancements in product design and manufacturing.

In addition, these enhanced assembly processes now require increased skills from employees.  Current employees require more training, and new employees require new and different training.  This eats up valuable resources and does show up on the profit and loss statement as employees must be educated, trained, and mentored much longer.

Manufacturers have no choice but to invest in innovative approaches in the manufacturing assembling process.  Robotic assembly is not the only innovative restructuring process out there, and in fact is ancient in today’s marketplace. Powerfully integrating employees into today’s advanced manufacturing processes is the Holy Grail.

This type of methodology and use of technology can be referred to as “translational research”: not only investing in the R&D, but turning that R&D into physical reality, and that includes technology-enabled proactive and positive integration of the human part of the equation.  It’s this type of innovative use of human-focused technology in process design that can decrease employee injury, increase the consistency of quality of product, and increase the efficiency of production time.

Most large organizations have not yet come to the realization that seeking out cutting edge responses to human limitations on the assembly floor is a critical component of strategy and process design in today’s quickly changing production environment.  SMBs are looking for big business models to follow.  In both cases, the ROI of focusing on such solutions is rapid and a conservative >800% in the first few months.*

For some years to come, human beings will be on the assembly floor, much of the work there requiring more awkward positions and/or tedious fine motor skills of the upper extremities.  Biology of the human body is not getting a facelift in the near future.  Therefore, using the innovations happening in human movement analysis, correction and optimization will help to integrate and capitalize on the human aspect of assembling the new innovations created by engineering designers.

*Case studies available on request.

The benefits of treating musculoskeletal discomfort before it becomes injury.

The Benefits of Reducing Musculoskeletal Disorders (MSDs) Through Better Movements, Postures and Tools

The Benefits of Treating musculoskeletal discomfort before it becomes injury.
Let’s be realistic: many organizations’ production/manufacturing processes and equipment will not be changing to “fit” the worker any time soon. And even if they were, workers will still become injured. Why? Soft tissue adhesions will continue to happen due to work station alignments that can’t be customized to individual workers. MSDs will result in individuals due to historical injuries that are difficult to record, track or know about. “Proactive” ergonomic changes such as reducing steps or reducing how many times someone handles materials can inadvertently cause other worker injury risks. For example, changing the work requirement from walking to static standing can be absolutely debilitating.

What’s left out of so many employee health and safety or ergonomic programs is a a focus on the individual. A blanket ergonomic program can correct many problems, but ultimately one size fits one. A proactive program to analyze and correct poor movements for individuals as well as overall has many benefits.

Such as:

  • Focusing on and correcting poor movements ultimately reduces costs. By proactively preventing and reducing MSDs, companies save approximately $1 out of every $3 in workers’ compensation costs. By continuing to focus on and correcting poor movements everywhere in the company and reducing the MSDs, indirect costs also go down, which can be up to 20 times the cost of one reported injury. If an average cost of an MSD episode without surgery costs $12,000.00, indirect costs will be dramatically higher!
  • Correct human movements boost productivity. Posture and movement solutions improve productivity by reducing muscle fatigue, especially towards the latter half of the work day. Optimal movement patterns need less muscle exertion, resulting in better efficiency of movement and a better quality product produced.
  • To emphasize, correct human movements improve product quality. Non-efficient movements lead to fatigued workers. This creates two issues: 1), increased risk for an injury due to lack of concentration, and 2), decreased quality of product made. The latter now delves into indirect costs rising.
  • Proactive programs to resolve movement-related discomforts create better employee/employer relations. Employees do notice when their employer takes action to foster their health and safety. And they certainly know when they feel better! And feeling better directly as a result of an employer-sponsored, employee-centric program builds a sense of satisfaction, loyalty and commitment of the company as a whole to build better products and to stay happily engaged in the process. Less employee turnover means less dollars spent on the hiring process and re-training. Less job-related fatigue and discomfort means less time away from work, less shifts that have to be covered, less disruption overall.
  • Early symptom intervention programs cultivate better safety practices. Safety is obviously a core value these days. As proactive care programs permeate a company’s culture, they increase all employees’ education on health and safety, demonstrate the value the company places on its employees, and improve employee self-esteem. It’s not the product or your customers that is your most important asset. It’s your employees. And caring for them in this way has an exceptional ROI.
Job Rotation Food Processing

5 Mistakes You’re Making in Job Rotation

Job Rotation Food ProcessingAn employee comes to you and says that’s he’s hurting. In this case, it’s his shoulders.  So, you look down the line for a workstation requiring a different activity, and you plan a regular job rotation with the person running that station on his same shift.  With gratitude, the employee goes back to work.

Four days later, the employee calls in sick.  His shoulders hurt too badly to work, he says.  He says his doctor wants him off the job for two weeks. Two weeks go by, and ultimately he doesn’t ever come back.  You’re surprised by this.  You did what you thought would solve the problem.  What happened?

This is a regular occurrence in manufacturing job rotation, and there are five common mistakes made in designing a job rotation program that, if avoided, will actually set you on the path to establishing an assertive injury prevention program.

Mistake #1: Not including movement training.  Nothing would get done without humans moving.  But are they moving the right way?  Work has two parts: the tasks to be done and a method for doing them.  Each task can be performed in such a way to minimize the risk of causing personal discomfort and injury.  Do you know the best way to physically approach each task that a worker will perform each day, over and over? It’s not relying solely on the use of correct angles, which is common in ergonomics.  That’s just a start. Using technology such as sEMG, it is possible to see how an individual’s approach to the work is causing him or her discomfort, and how to modify the approach to reduce or completely eliminate that discomfort.  More importantly, sEMG shows aberrant muscle firing patterns and different types of muscle fatigue.  Individuals most often can’t perceive this in themselves; therefore, identifying the patterns prior to an injury and prior to a complaint can dramatically decrease risk for musculoskeletal injuries.  Health professionals highly skilled in  movement retraining  can then train individuals on optimal movement patterns for them that will avoid musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) and injury.

Mistake #2: Not designing a specific stretching/dynamic movement program for each workstation.  A generic stretching program is a good start, but if different movements are required at different workstations, specific stretches geared to those movements will provide the most benefit.  For example, a welder may just need to stand up straight and perform forearm stretches between units to relieve upper body stress or have a high stool to sit on for a minute to relieve low back pain, or both.  Workers need to be taught these specific stretches and countering movements along with the task at hand when they are rotated into a new position.  Employees leading the stretch programs should have additional education on the general whys, hows, a developing critical eye, and an attitude of engaging employees that half-heartedly participate or do not participate.  This type of engagement will assist the program to become better.

Mistake #3: Not breaking tasks down into their minimal components and addressing each.  The task may be a grip and cut in food processing, for example, but there’s also a repetitive reach to get the next piece of work.  Are all of these movements considered when planning job rotation?  Analyzing time exposure, static positions, the number of repetitions, and stress angles on joints required by the work at each station are just some of the factors that should be considered in a quality job rotation program.

Mistake #4: Not proactively responding to complaints.  If the lines of communication are open and broad between workers and management, the first hints of discomfort will be revealed.  This is an opportunity to proactively address them.  First aid massage, Kinesio Taping, and movement retraining, review and correction are just some of the tools that can be used to diminish the risk and return the worker to a better physical ability.

Mistake #5:  Rotating employees to workstations with similar versus completely diverse movements.  Do both stations require using the upper extremities in similar ways?  Constant gripping or twisting or reaching and lifting, for example?  How is the back being used at each workstation? Is repetitive twisting involved?  Reaching down and pulling?  If you can switch an employee to a station where none of the same movements are required you’ll get the best results.  Even the order in which the rotation happens can have an impact.

Job rotation in a production environment is an art, but it can produce amazing results if done in concert with a highly trained production movement specialist.  If you’d like a free and confidential consult on an area of concern in your own company, please give us a call at 803-716-9167.

 

Reducing Workers’ Comp Claims: A Radio Interview

Mike Switzer of the SC Business Review interviews Lori Peacock, CEO of Physical Performance Solutions, on the often overlooked and unique contributors to employee discomfort—including physical fitness—and how to optimize management of and provide relief for those factors.

Ergonomic Assessment Forms

The 7 Deadly Sins of Ergonomic Assessment


If you’re using a standardized ergonomic assessment form (or a set) to gauge the progress or success of your ergonomic initiative, you may not be realizing the total benefits available to you and your employees. You may also not be capturing or addressing the full scope of the issues before you.

This is especially true if you are tasked with achieving X results in a timeframe of Y. Your forms-based approach may or may not deliver results that will produce the metrics that the executive team wants to see. So, what to do?

Here are some of the limitations of forms-based assessments and how you can go beyond those limitations to create a whole new world of change.

1. The floor and ceiling effect. The REBA assessment form, for example, has a limited range within which to measure capacity and incapacity. I do not wish to step on toes, but, how can a previous injury impacting mobility be addressed within this form? Your movement floor and ceiling and my movement floor and ceiling are likely completely different. How can the individual’s unique range of motion be captured? And if the use of the REBA form, or similar forms, is mandated in order to fit into a larger hierarchy of performance, how can you track what’s really going on with a particular employee? Here’s a suggestion: add a detailed addendum to the form that identifies the individual’s particular physicality and its abilities and limitations and create a set of metrics around that. Bringing these metrics to the attention of the executive team and how tracking them has benefited both employees and the company may allow the introduction of a whole new set of metrics to be tracked across divisions/work groups.

2. Only addressing the design of the station. Welding will always be welding, but you can suggest and allow changes that will help address worker fatigue and stiffness. For example, you can build in stretch or rest breaks. Even just 45 to 60 seconds can reset the most used muscle groups.
3. Ignoring future effects. Each change you make will deliver short term, midrange, and long term effects. Are you tracking the effects of your ergonomic changes over time? Some of the changes you put in place may deliver excellent short term results, but might those changes produce poor results in the longer haul? For example, changing a reach at a workstation can create immediate relief for an employee as he or she begins to exercise a different set of muscles. But will the new reach movement deliver a different set of problems over time, or the same muscle fatigue problem you started out with? Thinking through the longer term effects of your ergonomic changes may reveal that additional considerations have to be made.

4. Not training or monitoring your ergo team effectively. If you don’t have an ergo team in place, then that’s step #1. If you do, the way you train that team and measure their results will have an enormous impact on outcomes. Proper training and continued training through developing a critical eye, will allow your team to implement corrections that produce positive results versus negative ones. For example, encouraging workers to stretch throughout the work is great. The caveat to this is whether or not the employee truly understands the hows and whys of stretching. This form of education must be nurtured layer by layer. Don’t assume proper movement patterns in stretching or exercising in anyone.

5. Not defining the role of the ergo team deeply enough. Does the ergo team view themselves as compliance police or teachers? Do they think their job is to enforce or to encourage? Studies clearly show that leaders who show up as teachers and encouragers will develop deeper relationships with their employees and produce better results than those who only try to achieve metrics. When a leader, or change agents, takes the approach of empowering and valuing employees, employees will show up engaged and eager to participate, even becoming teachers and encouragers themselves. The more distributed the selfcare message is—that is, the more often it comes from peers versus the leadership team—the more powerful it will be. Don’t feel like you have the right people in place to provide that training in a powerful way? We have trained many teams in this approach, and they’ve been extraordinarily successful in creating positive results for their employers and employees alike.

6. Not considering yourself a change agent. Many leaders fear that implementing a program focused on helping workers mitigate fatigue, body stiffness, or discomfort will soon have all workers complaining about having pain, and then what? Surely, they’ll demand more pay? Or, worse yet, we could experience higher worker’s compensation claims. We’ve found that concern to be baseless. In fact, our experience is that these programs help employees feel cared for and valued. Emotions expressed as “valued”, “cared for”, “appreciated” are powerful non-monetary benefits all companies can aspire to create in the company culture. This can spur employees to step up and participate in leadership roles, training fellow employees and providing helpful tips when they see the opportunity. Therefore, companies observe decreased worker compensation claims, increased productivity, increased quality, decreased number of days away from work.

7. Using the wrong words to communicate with employees on how they physically feel. Let’s take the word “discomfort”, a popular term in early intervention programs, and a term that OSHA approves, rather than the word “pain.” “Pain” equals an injury in OSHA terminology. Unfortunately, we find that employees often consider “pain” and “discomfort” as synonyms. The goal of Early Symptom Intervention programs is to get to the employee before pain. There are red flags that employees express either consciously or unconsciously well before a description of “discomfort” or “pain” is verbalized. It is here where you can begin to assist employees to make corrections to help and then monitor those corrections. This is an area in which ergo teams can fall short; not because they don’t care, but because the knowledge base is not there. And chances are this technical level of knowledge and application won’t be learned in ergo teams comprised of most current company employees: EHS, assembly team leads, production supervisors, HR personnel. The information necessary is in an entirely different career knowledge base. Hiring outside companies that have this experience to assist in molding, teaching, and mentoring internal ergo teams is highly valued by companies that are now traveling down this path, due to the significant results achieved by doing so.

Avoid these seven deadly sins in ergonomic risk assessment, and you’ll find yourself curing ills you may never have known you had.

PRESS RELEASE: Tyler Wahlert Joins Physical Performance Solutions Team

Aiken, SC – Physical Performance Solutions, LLC was pleased to announce today that Tyler Wahlert has joined the company in the capacity of both therapist and technology expert.

With a B.S. in software engineering, a license in massage therapy, and a full body certification in Active Release Techniques, Mr. Walhert is well-equipped to help employees of the company’s corporate clients to resolve musculoskeletal disorders and return to better health via a variety of means.

“I discovered Physical Performance Solutions after traditional medicine failed to provide long term relief to the soft tissue injuries I sustained while in the military,” said Mr. Wahlert.  “During my search for healing, and spending thousands of dollars on various forms of treatment, I learned that many doctors and therapists only treat the symptoms and don’t take the time or have the training to find the cause. Physical Performance Solutions addressed the cause of my pain and brought me relief.  That experience inspired me to help others find the same relief.”

“Tyler is an excellent, empathetic and intuitive therapist, having suffered through issues similar to those of our patients,” said Lori Peacock, president of Physical Performance Solutions.  “In addition, his technical expertise will allow us to offer our clients a wider array of technology tools to complement our hands-on and in-person services.”

Mr. Wahlert will apply his technology background to develop a library of in-depth training videos offered exclusively to Physical Performance Solutions clients.

“Our mission has always been to pursue and utilize the best means available in technology, manual therapies, and movement re-training to empower our clients,” Ms. Peacock said.  “Tyler will be a great asset in helping us continue to achieve that mission.”

 

About Physical Performance Solutions

Physical Performance Solutions, LLC, based in Aiken, South Carolina, is a leader in evidenced-based biomechanics, offering cutting edge, cost effective and proactive strategies for reducing worker discomfort and injury in manufacturing and corporate environments. The company’s “one solution fits one” approach ensures the highest quality care for individual employees while dramatically reducing risk and safety issues for their employers.  Industries currently served by the company include textiles, food processing, aerospace, automotive, and electrical component manufacturing.  Learn more at www.PhysicalPerformanceSolutions.com.

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Serving the textile industry

Press Release: Physical Performance Solutions Now Servicing the Textile Industry

Serving the textile industryFOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

May 8, 2018

Contact:  Lori Peacock, Physical Performance Solutions, LLC
lpeacock@physicalperformancesolutions.com
803-716-9167

Physical Performance Solutions Now Servicing the Textile Industry

Aiken, SC – Physical Performance Solutions, LLC announced today that it has added textiles to its growing list of industries served. The company offers Early Symptom Intervention programs to resolve employee discomfort before more serious injury, pain or cost accrues for employees and the companies for which they work.

“Although the textile industry is unique in what it does, employee discomfort can be found in just about any industry,” said Lori Peacock, president of Physical Performance Solutions. “Our proven, comprehensive process will bring relief to textile employees and employers alike.”

Physical Performance Solutions provides onsite services that analyze, diagnose and treat employee health issues before they escalate. Analysis may consist of interviews with employees, observation of workstation layouts and uses, job rotation review, and hands-on examination of muscle movement.

“Our mission is to pursue and utilize the best means available in technology, manual therapies, and movement re-training to empower our clients,” Ms. Peacock added. “We will always provide superior and customized attention to all of our clients so that they in turn may achieve their own missions.”

Industries currently served by the company include food processing, aerospace, automotive, and electrical component manufacturing.

ABOUT PHYSICAL PERFORMANCE SOLUTIONS
Physical Performance Solutions, LLC, based in Aiken, South Carolina, is a leader in evidence-based biomechanics, offering cutting edge, cost effective and proactive strategies for reducing worker discomfort and injury in manufacturing and corporate environments. Our “one solution fits one” approach ensures the highest quality care for individual employees while dramatically reducing risk and safety issues for their employers. Learn more at www.PhysicalPerformanceSolutions.com.

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