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The problems at the work place were detected over a long period of time and are a part of the history of development. The development of technology was very rapid which must also have brought in the needed changes in the workplace functions and norms. Unfortunately the basic structure of health protection came to be discussed only in the beginning of 1960s. The occupational medicine became a separate field of study since then and the occupational health service was born. The motto which the service wanted to achieve was an ergonomic system that could fit the job and the worker and simultaneously identify and eliminate health hazards. (Wilkinson, 50) There were many statues passed that created safety at the workplace. The greatest step in this regard was the OSHA regulations.
The OSHA act of 1970 was the single piece of legislation that gave an impetus to the work place safety. The act was passed to "assure safe and healthful working conditions for working men and women.." (HealthCare Wide Hazards Module -Ergonomics) the act then makes it mandatory that it is the duty of the employer to ensure the safety of the employee. This includes minimizing manual lifting, and provides for health plans to employees. The employer is obliged to provide training to employees in injury prevention, and provide a compliance system with a written program and have specific procedures for reporting and remedy. The Act also has responsibilities cast on the employee to observe all the regulations and report injuries and take steps to mitigate them. Under this law it becomes obligatory to analyze the work place on a periodic basis to find hazards and eliminate them. The accidents records, screening of employees and medical checks are now part of the system. (HealthCare Wide Hazards Module -Ergonomics) Specifically with regard to back injuries, the Act lays down that "Training should be updated and presented to employees as changes occur at the workplace" and there should be a specific detailing on the "potential risks, causes, and symptoms of back injury and other injuries." (HealthCare Wide Hazards Module -Ergonomics)
We have to note the special mention made of the back injury and understand how important a health concern it has become. When the law mandates that the hazards be identified and eliminated, it resulted in the deeper study of the ergonomics and engineering that was based on the viewpoint of the worker rather than the productivity. This welcome change created a different set of engineering principles in the design of machines and furniture that focused on the needs of the user and eliminate pain. The engineering changes also contribute to lowering the back pain incidence.
Engineering & Administrative controls
For engineering an environment friendly and worker friendly apparatus, Haddon gave ten strategies that form the basic tenets in the ergonomic engineering principles. According to Haddon, the first principle is to see that no hazards are created. For example prevent storing materials at a height which can injure someone. The method of preventing back injury is to avoid creating things that are hard to lift with irregular shapes. The second principle is to reduce hazard by limiting weight or quantity to smaller units. The third is to ensure that guy ropes and other pulleys function properly at all times and there is no scope of accidents. Fourth according to him is the extensive use of mechanical lifts weight lifting machines and leavers and things that help people transport things without use of their body force. Haddon goes on to add that providing handles, ergonomic packaging, and creating better surfaces and also reducing friction goes a long way in preventing hip pain. The need for availability of first aid and training for employees in the use of machines, and work place safety issues is accordingly the most important part of avoiding the pain. The back injury problem can be thus addressed only by a comprehensive design and ergonomic consideration of the systems of work. The most important thing in the success of any new engineering endeavours of course is the employee adaptation which will require constant training and interaction. (Back Injuries in the Workplace)
It is important to analyze the psychology and mental alertness of the employee, and therefore many researchers believe that Psycho physiological measures and human factors testing are important. These tests provide clues about the operators of complex machinery like a fighter aircraft. This will help evolve a system that can admit and provide for human failings within the system where critical components are involved. (Charlton, O'brien, 127) These measures in a critical environment provide the necessary feedback. The PPE response also involves the methodical conveyance of employee rights and responsibilities. (Osigweh, 165) Rules are available for all aspects of employment. The organizational objectives, limitations and all the attendant responsibilities and risks to the employee ought to be made clear. Sometimes penalties are also imposed for violation the rules. (Osigweh, 165) There is a progress so far as the employer interest in the workers welfare is concerned and most countries have adopted some form of legal requirements. The trend in the future is predictable.
In future ergonomics will play a very vital role in all systems and safe working conditions will become mandatory requirements in work places. The workers have the right to sue the employer now and therefore there will be more painstaking effort to provide better working conditions. At the same time it is essential to spread awareness in future to individuals about the hazard and its remedy. The spread of information system and education in schools will insist on ergonomics and posture as a part of physical training to provide qualified youth of tomorrow.
This paper thus analyzes the occurrence of back pain and spinal disorder at the workplace and examines the workplace health hazards in detail. Back pain is a dangerous condition that affects a large number of people. It affects young children and adults alike. The pain and the loss this condition causes to individuals, by loss of earning power and the loss to the industry by terms of missed man-days is appalling. There must be special research into the occupations which require lifting loads, where there is a mandatory need to teach worker and trained in the best possible methods at work. 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. 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. Today there are a number of legal requirements and statutes that ensure safety at the work place. These have had some effects on the incidence of back pain. However the enhancing of individual knowledge as to the cause of pain and combining it with the requirements of safety at the workplace is having a salutary effect. The problem of the injury has given rise to the branch of science called occupational medicine. Together with the researches and services of the health department and the OSH Act, the government seeks to provide a safety net to the employees. Today there is a progress in eliminating the pain both from the efforts of employers and employees, but we have to always remember that it is the individual who has to contribute the maximum in this regard. The best method is to encourage the study of hazards form school and make it a part of the curriculum.
Chart-1: Nature of Injuries at Berkeley Lab
Chart 1 -- Taken from Below Reference:
N.A. Nature of Injuries at Berkeley Lab. (http://www.lbl.gov/Publications/Currents/Archive/view-assets/Apr-15-2005/View_Pie.gif)
PIC 2: Warehousing ergonomics and back pain
Picture 2 -- Taken from Below Reference:
Harrington, Lisa. H. The Safety Zone. (http://www.inboundlogistics.com/articles/features/0506_feature01.shtml)
Table: 3 - Comparative table of pain distribution
Picture 2 -- Taken from Below Reference:
N.A. Comparative table of pain distribution. (http://www.aans.org/education/journal/neurosurgical/may98/4-5-p1/8204f3.GIF)
Charlton, Samuel G; O'brien, Thomas G. Handbook of Human Factors Testing and Evaluation. Lawrence Erlbaum Associates. Mahwah, NJ. 2002.
Harrington, Lisa. H. The Safety Zone. http://www.inboundlogistics.com/articles/features/0506_feature01.shtml
Kelkar, P; O'Callaghan, B; Lovblad, K.O. Asymptomatic grotesque deformities of the cervical spine: An occupational hazard in railway porters. Spine Journal, 1998, vol. 23, no. 6, pp. 737-740.
Kroemer, K.H. E; Grandjean, E. Fitting the Task to the Human: A Textbook of Occupational
Ergonomics. Taylor & Francis. London. 1997.
Mccabe, Paul T. Contemporary Ergonomics 2002.
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