What Not To Do Wednesday – 5/24/17

Some days, what not to do is right in front of you.  When I was walking from the parking lot into the building, I noticed the ladder leaning against the building to access the roof.  The first thing that jumped out at me was the fact that the top of the ladder was extended just barely beyond the top edge of the wall.  It was not anywhere close to the minimum 3 feet that it should have extended past the access point between the ladder and the roof.

I went inside and grabbed my business partner to point out the ladder, but also to show him the new NIOSH Ladder Safety App.  It’s a simple but useful app that I’ve used out in the field on a couple of previous occasions to document fixed ladders on a worksite.  The nice thing about it is that it has a measuring tool that can tell you whether a ladder is placed at too shallow an angle, the appropriate angle, or too steep an angle.  When I placed my phone on the ladder, the ladder was at too shallow an angle – 72 degrees.  The shallow angle placement of the ladder is compounded by the fact that the feet of the ladder are placed on a downward sloping section of pavement.  Between the shallow angle, sloped pavement, and lack of ladder extension beyond the access point, this is a catastrophe waiting to happen.

Correcting these mistakes is a simple fix:

  • Extend the ladder further – there is still plenty of extension left in this ladder.
  • Check the angle of the ladder to make sure that it isn’t too shallow or too steep.  The NIOSH Ladder Safety App is free and easy to use.  Almost everyone has a smart phone so there is no excuse not to use the app.

Friday Five – 2/24/17

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 Friday Five is going to be focused on healthcare providers.

Surgery is a physically demanding task for the surgical team.  Being that surgeons are people too, they come to work with some of the same nagging aches and pains that all of have.  This study by Susan Hallbeck et al. looked at the impact of surgeons taking small breaks to stretch and exercise during surgeries longer than 2.5 hours or more than 4 hours of cumulative surgery during an op day.  Participating surgeons noted a significant reduction in shoulder pain and felt that the microbreaks were not distracting to surgical performance.

In relation to the above mentioned paper, researchers in Italy looked at the postures and positions related to surgical performance.  For those in the realm of ergonomics, it is no surprise that the ability to control the height of the surgical table reduces the risk of musculoskeletal complaints.

Researchers looked at the human factors involved in performance of nursing tasks and developed a methodology that increased direct patient contact time which resulted in a reduction in missing medicines which caused a decrease in lost time in tracking down medications.  It’s important to look at the way we do things and determine what makes our jobs easier and what tasks take away from being able to perform our primary functions.

The last two papers today involve Neal Wiggerman from Hill-Rom.  The first paper looks at the impact of the placement of brake pedals and hand controls on hospital beds and the required forces to manipulate the bed.

The second paper looks at the impact of powered drive units of bariatric beds for pushing, pulling, maneuvering into elevators, controlling ramp descents, and stopping when compared to non-powered bariatric beds.  The powered units demonstrate significant impacts across the spectrum.   It was nice to see the inclusion of controlling the descent on ramps.  We have performed on-site measurements in several hospitals and this is an area that is often forgotten as many hospitals don’t have significant ramps.  However, when we were measuring demands for patient transporters at a hospital in Philadelphia, the hospital was comprised of several buildings purchased at different times on a hilly property.  As the hospital acquired the buildings, connecting ramps were built as none of the buildings had floors at corresponding heights.  Due to the ramps, pushing and pulling forces in this hospital had a 25% greater requirement than in similar hospitals with no intra-floor ramps.

 

 

 

 

Necessity is the Mother of Invention

Several years ago, my barber injured his right rotator cuff. You may wonder how a rotator cuff injury to my barber has to do with an ergonomics blog. It’s everything to do with the title of this post – “Necessity is the mother of invention”.

At the time, my barber who was in his late 60s owned his barbershop which was truly a one man operation – think small town, old school barbershop. Woodworking, in particular making furniture and bookcases, was his away from work hobby. When he tried to catch himself during a trip and fall, he injured his right rotator cuff. While going through conservative treatment, he found that each day he could perform less haircuts than the previous day before the pain in his shoulder would stop him for the day. Being that he owned the shop, even bringing somebody in to work while he underwent rehabilitation would cause a significant decrease in his income. Thus, finding a way to keep working while dealing with his injury was the necessity.

Now comes for the invention. He put the knowledge gained from his hobby in woodworking to good use. He realized from both a practical and a biomechanical standpoint that his shoulder didn’t hurt if the person who’s hair was being cut was at a low enough height that their head was approximately at the height of his elbows. He spent a couple of days playing with seating positions of his customers to keep them at this optimal height, but realized that moving the customers around wasn’t necessarily the best solution.

My barber then realized that if there was an ideal height for the customer’s head, but moving the customer wasn’t the best choice, the next best thing would be to move himself. He experimented with a small stool to stand on but found it cumbersome to move the stool as he worked around the customer’s head. While the stool was cumbersome, it was easier than moving the customer around. So, the barber decided to build a platform around the chair. This gave him room to move around the customer while keeping the customer’s head at a comfortable level – and still allowed access to the chair controls to elevate shorter customers to a comfortable height. And most importantly, solved his necessity – it allowed him to be able to maintain his income and keep his business running.

The reason why I bring this example up is a recent visit to a new client. While observing a work task that has generated some level of upper extremity complaints, we quickly noticed that the work surfaces were at a height that required the workers to elevate their shoulder in order to generate enough “space” to perform the task. A lowering of the table heights would allow the workers to perform their tasks while reducing strain on their upper extremities.

Do you have worksite tasks that are causing complaints? Not sure how to modify the tasks to alleviate the problem? Give Biokinetics a call at (732) 796-7370 and we’ll give you a hand in finding the optimal solution.