Friday Five – 3/24/17

The Friday Five is a set of five links that I have come across this week that pertain to ergonomics, occupational health, safety, human performance, or human factors.  For whatever reason, I found them interesting, but they are provided with minimal or no commentary and are not meant to be endorsement for a given product.

This week’s Five are new entries to PubMed under the search terms of: occupational safety.

Smith et al. look at physical activity assessment tools that are used in primary care.  They found that the tools are not sufficient to give practitioners the information necessary to guide interventions.  This is not surprising as most of the public does not have a solid concept of the level of physical activity that they perform across a given week.

Samelli et al. review the efficacy of using a tablet based hearing test.  For areas where there is low access to audiologists for hearing tests, this may be of interest.

Spira-Cohen et al. spent several weeks recording sound level data in New York City restaurants, bars, lounges, and clubs as part of a pilot study to assess sound level exposure to employees and patrons.  Of note, “In 49% (N=29) of the venues, the visit exceeded the maximum allowable daily noise dose based on National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) Recommended Exposure Limit (REL) of 85 dBA 8-hr Time-Weighted Average (TWA)”

Hemmatjo et al. investigated the effect of different cooling strategies (cooling vest, cooling gel, cooling gel + vest) on firefighters when performing simulated firefighting tasks.

Kajiki et al. performed a randomized clinical trial of participating ergonomic intervention training that looked at low back training in a work environment.  It isn’t often that companies are willing to place their employees in studies such as this.  The authors include a good discussion about the results of their study and limitations within the study.  They also acknowledge that the ergonomic intervention training has a half-life (my choice of terminology) – over time, the impact of training wears off and needs to be repeated on a regular basis.  This is something that we have seen with clients that we provide material handling training services.


What Not To Do Wednesday – 3/22/17

Two recent stories have popped up in the last week that have to do with the wording of job descriptions and the impact of choice of words as well as the choice to use/not use the Oxford Comma.

In Maine, three truck drivers for Oakhurst Dairy sued their employer over the non-payment of overtime hours.  The case went to the 1st US Circuit Court of Appeals and hinged on a small detail – the Oxford Comma.  Maine law specifies specific tasks that are exempt from overtime pay:

The canning, processing, preserving, freezing, drying, marketing, storing, packing for shipment or distribution of:

(1) Agricultural produce;

(2) Meat and fish products; and

(3) Perishable foods.

The legal question hinges on whether “packing for shipment or distribution of” means “packing for shipment or distribution of” or “packing for shipment” and “distribution of” are two separate tasks.  The drivers were not a part of the packing for shipment (or packing for shipment and distribution) but were part of the distribution of the product.

Currently, the Court of Appeals has sided with the drivers that the statement means packing for “shipment and distribution” and not inclusive of the distribution of the packed product.  This missing comma has a potential value in the millions of dollars.

In a separate case, noted on John Geaney’s Workcomp Blog, he details the case of a pharmaceutical sales representative who developed vision problems that prevented her from being able to drive.  When the sales representative lost her ability to drive due to vision issues, she requested that Pfizer, her employer, provide her with a driver to drive her to sales appointments.  Pfizer declined this option and offered her a change in position to one which did not require driving to sales appointments.  The sales representative turned down that offer and filed an ADA case.  The case revolves around whether driving is an essential demand of the position.  Pfizer contends that driving to and from sales appointments is an essential demand while the sales representative contends that the ability to travel to and from sales appointments is the essential demand.  Unfortunately, the employer never listed the ability to drive or the requirement of a driver’s license as essential demands of the position. The appeals court has remanded the trial so that it can be determined whether driving is an essential demand for the position.

While this What To Do Wednesday post isn’t the typical, don’t be like the guy in this picture or story, it still presents important information of What Not To Do.  It can no longer be assumed that because a task is an essential demand due to longstanding tradition or an assumption of common sense dictates it to be.  Also, employers need to be aware of the potential grammar issues in job descriptions that may pose a problem when it comes to either payment for work performed or whether assigned tasks are included in the tasks covered by a specific law.


Friday Five – 3/17/17

The Friday Five is a set of five links that I have come across this week that pertain to ergonomics, occupational health, safety, human performance, or human factors.  For whatever reason, I found them interesting, but they are provided with minimal or no commentary and are not meant to be endorsement for a given product.

This week’s Five come from some of the newest additions to PubMed when using the search terms: ergonomics and workplace.

Shafti et al. looked at performance of work related tasks and levels of perceived discomfort (Borg scale) versus measurements from the Rapid Upper Limb Assessment and data collected from EMG sensors and electronic goniometers.  Not surprisingly, the RULA tool and data collected on muscle activity and joint angles were better at picking up small changes than the perceived discomfort described by the study subjects.

Khandan et al. utilized Fuzzy Technique for Order of Preference by Similarity to Ideal Solution (TOPSIS) to review job positions within a manufacturing facility to help determine which job titles would benefit from ergonomic interventions.  Often, clients realize that they have many positions that would benefit from ergonomic intervention but have limited funds to apply to interventions.  Tools such as this allow ergonomic professionals to better direct employers to the best application of limited intervention funds.  

This paper in Frontiers of Human Neuroscience by Nafizi et al.  looks at the muscle synergies that occur during slipping events.  Determining what happens in the initial microseconds of a slipping event can help lead to the development of strategies to reduce injuries during slip and fall events.

Irzmansk and Tokarski created a new method of ergonomic testing for gloves that protect and cuts and stab wounds when using knives.  One of the biggest issues with glove usage is that the design of gloves  can change muscle recruitment, usage, and fatigue patterns when compared to performance of the activity without glove usage.  Specialty gloves for butchers and fishmongers are designed to protect against injuries from knife usage hovewever they can increase the physical gripping demands of the task.  This study helps to better quantify these changes based on glove design.

A paper in Applied Ergonomics by Coenen et al. looks into the issues of “prolonged sedentary time” and reviewed occupational health and safety policies that relate to this issue.  No specific existing policies were found, however the authors note that the issue of prolonged sedentary behavior is one that needs to be researched and addressed.





What Not To Do Wednesday – 3/15/17

A recent article in The Daily Meal focused on bad kitchen hygiene habits that can be observed by watching most of the television shows featuring celebrity chefs.  These habits include unsafe handling of meats and vegetables, lack of personal protective equipment (gloves), and unsafe techniques for tasting food while cooking.  The article points out that a reminder during the show about safe techniques could go along way to prevent unsafe and unhealthy techniques being used for cooks at home.  A “Don’t Do What I Do” reminder, if you will.

The celebrity food shows are not the only media in which poor or unsafe techniques are shown.

chip on top step of ladder

I hate to pick on Fixer Upper (it’s a favorite show in our home) as Chip’s goofiness is always the source of a few laughs.  But, this morning as my kids were watching a rerun, I heard him discuss some issues with the roof of a house that they were renovating.  When the word “ladder” came across the speaker of the television, I knew that I needed to take a quick peak.  I grabbed a quick picture with my cell phone as I saw them pull out the sketchy wooden A-frame ladder which was well below the roof line of the house.  Not only did Chip stand on the top step of the ladder with not great holding by his wife, he used this top step as a launching point to climb on to the roof.

In defense of Fixer Upper, almost every home improvement/home repair show on HGTV and DIY features moments just like this one – whether it is with ladders, saws, hammers, etc.  As Joanna Fantozzi of The Daily Meal pointed out in her article, a quick reminder of safety principles could go along way towards better safety practices of homeowners as they are attempting to do home renovations and repairs.

While This Old House may not be as fun and glitzy as its HGTV relatives, they include a lot of safety information as they take on different tasks on the show.

Ladder accidents cause nearly 500,000 injuries per year and the rate of ladder injuries has been increasing every year.  A significant portion of these injuries are not work related and occur at home.

There are several simple solutions to reducing the number of ladder related injuries:

  • Use the right type of ladder.
    • Use wood or fiberglass ladders when dealing with electricity.
    • Make sure that the ladder is of sufficient height for the task being performed.
    • Make sure that the ladder has a sufficient strength rating for the weight of the user and and tools/materials that are being carried or used.
  • Make sure that the ladder is in good shape.
    • If the ladder is worn or damaged, make sure that the ladder is repaired to manufacturer standards or replaced.
  • Make sure that you are using the ladder properly.
    • Maintain 3 points of contact when climbing.
    • Don’t reach out of your base of support.
    • When necessary, climb down, move the ladder, and climb again.
  • Make sure that you use proper ladder placement.
    • Place ladder on firm, even ground.
    • Use an assistant/helper to support the base of the ladder to prevent slipping.
    • Don’t place the ladder in front of doors that have not been secured.

One last suggestion comes from a recent paper in Injury by Ackland et al.  In their review of admissions to intensive care units due to ladder related injuries, they recommend that ladder users wear helmets to reduce the risk of traumatic brain injuries in the event of a fall from a ladder.  They note that this is especially important in home based environments as typical worksite occupational health and safety regulations are not in effect.



Friday Five – 3/10/17

The Friday Five is a set of five links that I have come across this week that pertain to ergonomics, occupational health, safety, human performance, or human factors.  For whatever reason, I found them interesting, but they are provided with minimal or no commentary and are not meant to be endorsement for a given product.

The news media this morning had several stories noting that beginning in July medical residents may work consecutively from 16 hours to 24 hours.  Interestingly, there were many medical residents that were in favor of this change.   Taking this change to resident’s shifts and the upcoming changing of the clocks for Daylight Saving Time, this Friday Five is focused on shift work.

Some residents looked forward to the increased hours as a way of reducing mid-case handoff of ER cases due to hitting the 16 hour mark.  A research letter by Charlie Wray, DO et al. in JAMA looked at handoff policies for residents at hospitals as implemenation of these practices, despite guidelines, is left to each hospital to implement.

A study published last year investigated the effect of hours per week worked by an admitting resident on patient outcomes.  It found that individuals admitted by residents working 80+ hours per week had longer hospital stays and more ICU transfers than those admitted by residents working less than 80 hours per week.  However, there did not appear to be a relationship between hours worked and 30 day readmission rates or in-hospital mortality rates.

Fernando and Roswell looked at the work performed during nursing shifts and noted that the types of work and volume of work performed varied through a 24 hour work cycle.  They note that the scheduling of shifts needs to take type of work and work volume into account.

Two older studies looked at the incidence of work related injuries following onset of Daylight Saving Time.  A study of American mine workers found an increase in injuries on the Monday following the start of DST and a decrease in total sleep for that night by 40 minutes.  A Canadian study found no statistical relationship between injuries and the onset of DST.

Interestingly,  researchers found that the rate of ischemic strokes increases during the first two days after the onset of daylight saving time.


Friday Five – 3/3/17

The Friday Five is a set of five links that I have come across this week that pertain to ergonomics, occupational health, safety, human performance, or human factors.  For whatever reason, I found them interesting, but they are provided with minimal or no commentary and are not meant to be endorsement for a given product.

Dr. Caitlin McGee, M.S., PT, DPT is a physical therapist with an interest in orthopedics and ergonomics for e-athletes.  She posted an ergonomic review of a prototype of the Smash Box controller.

This article covers 5 common injuries that potentially affect gamers.  Even though it is a couple of years old, it is still applicable today.  Keep in mind that gamers can be going home and playing for several hours on a daily basis – issues that they have from poor ergonomics in their home gaming set-up can be carried over to their workspace.

The original Hermann Miller Aeron chair wasn’t built for office workers.  The designers were working from input from senior citizens who listed needs such as cool temperatures,  easy on the joints, and easy to get up from or sit down on.  This article covers how these chairs ended up in offices across the world.

As always, it seems what is old becomes new again.  This article about kneeling chairs and back pain recently popped up in one of my Google Alerts for ergonomics.  I remember back in the late 1980s having one of these kneeling chairs in our house when I was a kid.

Boston Dynamics keeps building their amazing robots.  Their latest robot, Handle, is able to maneuver for distances of up to 15 miles, carry loads up to 100 pounds, navigate stairs with ease, and leap up to 4 feet vertically.  Could these be in warehouse environments in the near future?  The creations of Boston Dynamics always make me wonder how long it will be before Skynet becomes self-aware.




Human Factors at The Oscars

Steven Shorrock provides a great look into what went on with the mishandled envelope at the Oscars leading to the announcement of an incorrect winner by Warren Beatty.

Humanistic Systems

5121440257_e81647480b_o.jpg Photo: Craig Piersma CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

“An extraordinary blunder”

It has variously been described as “an incredible and almost unbelievable gaffe” (Radio Times), the greatest mistake in Academy Awards history” (Telegraph), “an extraordinary blunder…an unprecedented error” (ITV News), “the most spectacular blunder in the history of the starry ceremony” and “the most awkward, embarrassing Oscar moment of all time: an extraordinary failure” (Guardian).

It was, of course, the Grand Finale of the Oscars 2017.

Faye Dunaway and Warren Beatty are all set to announce the best picture win. Beatty begins to read out the winners card. But he looks visibly puzzled, pausing and looking in the envelope to see if there is anything else that he’s missed. He begins to read out the winners card, “And the Academy Award…”…

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