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5 Tips to Preventing Ergonomic Related Injury Lawsuits?

In the employer-employee workplace relationship, there are several incidents that take place. A major part of these incidents and more related to law is accidents or injuries. There are several kinds of workplace injuries and among them are Ergonomic injuries. This piece would help in learning simple and basic facts about ergonomic injuries, the responsibilities of the employer as it relates to ergonomics, claims that can arise from ergonomic injuries and how these claims/lawsuits can be prevented from being filed at all.

What Is an Ergonomic Injury?

There are certain jobs that require repetitive motion or actions at almost every time or day an employee engages in that job such as a secretary who continually types many documents behind the system, bar code scanning for a supermarket attendant, etc. Ergonomic injuries occur as a result of carrying out repetitive motion or actions under average or less than optimal workplace conditions. Ergonomic injuries can occur even if the smallest tool being used is malfunctioning, defective or misaligned.

Examples of risks related to ergonomic injuries may include:

  • Repetitive or constant awkward postures (such as bending or sitting or standing)
  • Highly demanding or forceful exertions
  • Highly repetitive tasks or jobs
  • Poor or unhealthy workstation equipment
  • Vibrations
  • Noise

The higher the rate of occurrence of these risk factors, the higher the possibility of an ergonomic injuries developing.

Personal risk factors on the part of the employee may include such things as:

  • Personal health or lifestyle (e.g.  poor eating habits, lack of physical fitness, lack of sleep, smoking etc.)
  • Poor habits at work (consistent undertaking of multiple shifts, lack of short breaks)
  • Bad posture at work

Preventing Ergonomic Related Injury Lawsuits

The Employer’s Responsibility

Employers are under legal obligations to ensure that the working environment is conducive and reasonably free from risks of hazards. This omnibus duty/general duty clause has been extended to cover ergonomic injuries. Under the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, employers have a general duty to “provide employment and a place of employment, which are free from recognized hazards that are causing or are likely to cause death or serious physical harm.”

Employer’s Liability and Employee’s Claim

Generally, ergonomic injuries fall under the category of workplace injuries and employers are usually covered against claims on workplace injuries by workers’ compensation insurance. The employees are not allowed to sue for workplace injuries except they can show that the employer was negligent in addressing the risks of such injuries or deliberately created such hazardous conditions. Also, a lawsuit may be an option id workers’ compensation is denied or contested.

Therefore, if there is no workplace compensation in place provided by your (employer) or you failed to address the risks, you may be sued and the employee may make a claim for a workplace injury.

Prevention Beats Cure

Avoiding lawsuits sounds good but preventing them definitely sounds and is actually better. Here are 5 great tips that can help you as an employer to prevent ergonomic lawsuits entirely or reducing its chances.

  1. Task Analysis and Re-engineering
    To assess an employee’s workplace injury claim, it must be clear that the employer had exhibited negligence as regards to the working conditions. There are clear injury risk factors, therefore, it would be safe for you to put the first foot forward by reducing the job risk factors and personal risk factors.

    A good way to reduce the job risk factors would be to carry out task analyses of each employee particularly those that are prone to ergonomic injuries due to the nature of their job. Task analyses would help to understand what exact activity of the job may cause an ergonomic injury.Also, smart businesses invest in careful process re-engineering. To reduce personal risks, employees should be made to go through customized training, their equipment may also be tailored to each worker and each employee’s ergonomic risk assessment. All these measures greatly ameliorate risk factors.
    The costs may increase the working capital but in the long run, it makes for a healthier workplace, a more productive staff and ultimately preventing lawsuits.
  2. Training Employees in Proper Ergonomics
    Employing health trainers to help employees with their postures, working styles and such little things as signs that indicate when to take a break or apply for a shift, can go a long way in preventing ergonomic injuries. This means to teach or engage in proper ergonomics.

    Proper Ergonomics: Ergonomics simply refers to the interaction of people with their physical environment. The scientific knowledge about work environment, system or objects can be utilized to mitigate injuries and maximize productivity. As an employer, you have to ensure that there is proper ergonomics in the workplace especially according to OSHA guidelines and principles.

  3. Recognizing The Warning Signs
    Most often than not, the damage is done by the time the signs of the disorders are noticed. However, it is still not out of place to put employees on notice on signs they should pay attention to that warn of an impending serious ergonomic injury. Some of these signs are: weakness, tingling or numbness, pain, clumsiness, consistent fatigue, strain etc.If the symptoms are noticed at an early stage, treatment can easily be carried out and permanent damage or injury is avoided, and the employee may still be able to work but maybe at another job or place or at a lower work rate. This can be very helpful in preventing a damaging lawsuit.
  4. Replacing Faulty Equipment or Updating Equipment
    One of the fastest ways to get a lawsuit on your desk is for an employee to get injured while using a faulty or outdated equipment that has been complained about. For instance, broken ladders, outdated machines (bar code scanner), faulty computers can result in workplace injuries. Workplace methods and equipment have to be constantly replaced or updated to avoid resulting injuries. It usually amounts to negligence.

    You can prevent resulting lawsuits by training workers on the safest practices or work methods, providing complaint forms on equipment and investing to replace or update and also providing a responsive safety care unit in case of an injury.

  5. Same-Level Falls
    This is usually caused by slipping on wet surfaces in the workplace onto hazardous objects or terraces or tripping over objects and sustaining serious workplace injuries.
    To prevent lawsuits from arising, potential areas or objects that may cause slips or tripping should be taken out or marked with “caution” to reduce risks. Also, the cleaning staff should be made aware of the risks being run if they neglect their duties. Hazardous objects should definitely be taken away and in good time. Over all, a regular workplace inspection will do the trick.

The Need to Hire the Best Personal Injury Lawyer.

If unfortunately a workplace injury does occur, and all the employee’s attempt to get his or her due compensation fails, then the only other option is to hire an experienced personal injury or workplace injury lawyer to help fight the case, and if necessary, go to court. The reason this might happen is because many employers will often not want to accept responsibility for the ergonomic related injury that their employees have suffered, and at such will delay, or otherwise use other tactics to avoid paying out a compensation. Which is where an injury lawyer comes in to defend your rights.

Protecting Your Small Business from an Ergonomically Related Lawsuit.

If there is one thing that a small business owner wants to do above all else, is to grow their business to such a point where it is very profitable, and can consequently sustain the lifestyle he or she wants for him or herself and their family.

To this end, the one thing such an individual will usually do is work, and more so work very hard. Sometimes to such extremes and to the point where it becomes detrimental to the person’s health and sometimes family life. While this might be all well and good when it concerns the individual by themselves. It becomes quite another issue once they have one or more employees they have hired in the business and expect these individuals to make these same detrimental sacrifices for the ‘good’ of the business.

While it may not be something that may be explicitly asked or demanded, it can often be implied and expected of the employee, who more often than not, is willing to do whatever it takes to have or keep a job and the income it provides.

The downside to this is the fact that in today’s world where the vast majority of “knowledge businesses” require an employee to constantly be seated at a desk and in front of a computer screen, or otherwise engaged in a workplace or environment that is not necessarily ergonomically friendly to the maintenance of the individual’s health. When you then factor in the business owner’s extreme drive to succeed and the resultant pressures that are then placed on employees, the resultant effect is the same health detriment previously spoken about.

In other words, the combination of the business owner’s drive to succeed, in addition to the relatively new field of ergonomics, can bring about a breakdown in the health of the employees of the business. When you then factor in the litigious nature of a society like America, where lawsuits are the order of the day, then it is easy to see how an employee of a small business, who has suffered deteriorating health as a result of an ergonomically unfriendly workplace, can easily institute a lawsuit against an employer or ex employer for damages to their health while under their employ.

For anyone uninformed about what exactly ergonomics is all about, ergonomics “is the practice of designing products, systems, or processes to take proper account of the interaction between them and the people who use them.” So when it comes to the working environment of a small business, the question that gets posed then is, just how friendly is the environment, systems or processes that its employees operate in or with?

In that regard, one of the things that a small business owner might want to do, especially when starting out with a new business venture, is to make sure to consult a professional ergonomics consultant to advice and help design an ergonomically friendly work environment.

Yet another important thing such a business should consider doing is to seek the advice of a small business attorney, especially one knowledgeable about ergonomics, to help in drafting the contact that any future employee of the business will sign, making sure to draft a clause into the contract that absolves the business from liability in any ergonomically related illnesses that occurs to the employee, given how all appropriate measures have been taken, with the consultation done with the ergonomics professional, to prevent such an injury or illness.

Once the above two things are done, and a friendly work place environment is provided, then chances of a small business being slapped with such a lawsuit is very slim to minimal. Or at least chances of such a lawsuit succeeding as very slim to none.

The Study of Ergonomics

Ergonomics is not a term many people are familiar with. In fact, when the question was asked at a random message board about what ergonomics was, many people were stumped and thought it had something to do with money.

Ergonomics is actually all about how humans are capable of certain demands in regards to work. Scientists who study ergonomics are called ergonomists and they show how to relieve stress and tension in the work place, and also in every day living.

 

What is ergonomics and how can knowing about it benefit your life?

 

 

Why is Ergonomics important?

 

In our changing, fast paced society, people are under more stress than ever. To help relieve tension, stress and to correct posture for better health, ergonomists take into consideration certain important key factors.

These key factors can include how a person sits, stands or moves about in an area. This would also include the length of time for these activities. Range of motion and how humans normally move are also taken into consideration. Ergonomists try to discover what makes certain situations more stressful on the body and how they can relieve this stress.

For example, many people who work in offices spend up to eight hours a day sitting in a chair and staring at a screen, moving their hands about a keyboard or mouse. While being in a sitting position in a certain posture may be considered comfortable, humans generally slump over after a certain period of time. To prevent this, ergonomics may recommend moving about into different, posture perfect positions in order to keep you comfortable and relieve the body of stress and tension.

 

What are the results of Ergonomic Studies?

 

When you study ergonomics and design it to practical applications in every day use, you’ll find it results in a more comfortable work environment. Studying ergonomics begins with an understanding of how the body works, what makes the body most comfortable and other techniques.

The studies that are put together test and retest certain products when used in daily activities. The recommended suggestions may change as studies progress. For example, it was conventional wisdom up until recently to put a computer monitor as close as 18 inches from your face. Now ergonomists suggest that a monitor should be as far away as possible as long as you are still able to read it easily. These changes can only occur with the continued study and efforts put in by ergonomists.

Learning about Ergonomics for Application in Daily Life

The study of ergonomics exists to help improve the work life of people. With applied techniques, people have found their work comes easier and they are more able to relax during and at the end of the day. The application of ergonomics improves the over all quality of life for most individuals.

It is one thing to study and earn about ergonomics, it is something else to actually put it into practice and apply the techniques. However, most techniques are simple and require very little change to your work environment. Simple ideas like how high you sit in a chair, how close your computer monitor is, and getting up to stretch every so often to break up the workday may make the difference between working in a stressful environment or working in one which is much healthier.

How to Avoid Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (CTS)

carpal tunnel syndromeIf you’ve never experienced it, consider yourself lucky. Carpal Tunnel Syndrome-a painful condition caused by swelling of the tendons in the wrists-is no joke. Hundreds of thousands of people suffer from the affliction on a daily basis; many have had to quit their jobs or abandon favorite activities, and the worst part is… chances are, it could have been avoided.

CTS is caused by repetitive, unnatural movements such as typing for extended periods of time or manipulating machines that vibrate. Those that have experienced the onset of CTS firsthand often complain of intense pain, swelling, limited hand functions, loss of strength, even loss of feeling.

There are some basic steps you can take to prevent-or at least reduce-your risk of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome:

  • Spend the time and money on outfitting your desk properly. Many of us who feel we don’t spend “that much” time on our home computers know that we’re sitting in an uncomfortable, unnatural position, but decide to just suffer through it. Bad idea. Even short amounts of time spent working in unnatural positions over the course of weeks can be harmful. Install an ergonomically correct keyboard tray on your computer desk.
  • Keep your hands warm. If you work in a cold environment, either outside or a building where you can’t control the temperature (like a warehouse), wear fingerless gloves that keep the muscles in your wrists from cooling down and tightening.
  • Alternate tasks to avoid overuse. Sure, logically it makes sense to enter all the orders on the computer at once and then move on to filing, finishing that in one fell swoop too. Don’t compromise the health of your body for efficiency. After all, how efficient will you be when you type more slowly due to wrist pain, or need to use both hands to pull heavy files? Take breaks and alternate tasks, giving your muscles time to relax and readapt.
  • Reduce your force. Instead of pounding on your keyboard like you’re Mozart banging out a concerto, touch your keyboard lightly. Hold pens and levers with a relaxed grip. Use a sawing motion to cut rather than pressing down with your wrist. Paying attention to unnatural pressure on your hands and wrists is key to realizing when you’re putting yourself at risk. Treat your wrists well, and they’ll do the same for you.

The saying of “prevention is better than cure” is definitely a big must when it comes to CTS as it can be a very big hinderance in your day-to-day life tasks.