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The Injured Worker - Now What?
In any work environment where workers find themselves using their bodies, there will be challenges to their physical wellbeing. Whether due to physically or mentally stressful duties or perhaps a life style that leaves them vulnerable to an injury, at one time or another they may need to be away from work in order for them to fully heal from an injury.
A person does not have to be working in an overtly dangerous place to get hurt. Note the prevalence of back, neck, shoulder or hand injuries affecting the office worker to put this thought into perspective. As Ergonomists, we have been mandated by OSHA to make every effort to keep people safe and on the job in the companies we serve. As such we should not limit ourselves to injury intervention or proactive modifications.
We may have more tools at our disposal than the evaluations and assessment many of us provide to our clients but may not have taken advantage of them. The data and benefits found in post offer Employment Tests (ET’s), Functional Capacity Tests, Employment Tests, or Preplacement Tests are used to match physical capabilities of prospective new hires with the physical demands of a specific job.
Many of these services are not readily offered to companies by Ergonomists who have worked primarily in injury investigation and intervention. In today’s turbulent business atmosphere, offering a wide range of services that will help identify individuals that will be successful in a job would be of great value to a company hiring or wanting to retain a valued employee. On the other hand, identifying individuals who would be at risk if they were to accept a job could be an indispensible added value of an Ergonomists service to protect a company’s exposure risk.
In the coming issues of this newsletter we will explore the types and appropriate applications of these screening tools. The Employment Test, Functional Capacity Test and Pre-Placement/Post Offer Test will be explored. The purpose of which is to enhance the CEAS value to their contracted companies and clarify the importance of the CEAS on the safety team.
Topics from the Journals and Websites
What the EEOC says about testing
The use of various types of tests can be effective in determining which applicants or employees are most qualified for a particular duty or job. However, caution must be taken not to violate federal Anti-discrimination laws if an employer INTENTIONALLY uses the tests to discriminate based on: race, color, sex, national origin, disability OR age of those over 40 years. The violations would occur if it was found that the testing excluded a disproportionate number of people from the above groups.
There has been an increase in Employment Testing (ET) due in part to post 9-11 security concerns as well as concerns for workplace violence, safety, and liability. The testing has also been increased due to the ever-increasing numbers of people applying for jobs via on-line programs.
The use of ET's, FCE's and other similar tests are non-biased and well established protocols for screening potential employees. The EEOC has adopted the "Uniform Guidelines on Employee Selection Procedures" (UGESP) that help the employer demonstrate job-related "test validation". These guidelines are detailed for the successful use by a testing entity.
It is the position of the editor and the Back School of Atlanta that the CEAS could be an appropriate provider of these added services.
From the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission
Back School of Atlanta News
An article “Ergonomic Intervention in the Treatment of a Patient with Upper Extremity and Neck Pain” by Philip Fabrizio, PT, DPT, CEAS is featured in the April 2009 issue of the Journal of the American Physical Therapy Association, Volume 89, Number 4, pages 351-360.
In the article discussion it states "Providing an ergonomic intervention in concert with traditional physical therapy may be the most beneficial course of treatment".
The Government Corner
OSHA Revisited: "A State of Mine"
The Occupational Safety and Health Act or OSH Act came into existence with the signature of President Nixon in 1970. Within the Act the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) was established in 1971. The successes and failures of the OSHA have been many but the protection of the worker has always been its core purpose.
Each administration since 1970 has tried to fine tune the authority of OSHA to make it effective for the worker without being overly restrictive on the employer. As such, changes have been few and far between with one large substantial change being made on the last day of the Clinton Administration, an Ergonomics Standard. It was reversed by the Bush Administration 2 months later in March 2001 due to the belief that the damage to industry would be too great.
In April 2002, Secretary of Labor Elaine L. Chao unveiled a comprehensive approach to ergonomics designed to quickly and effectively address musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) in the workplace. The guidelines have been the hallmark of the OSHA programs that are in place today. Guidelines for: Poultry, Nursing Homes, Grocery workers and most recently for shipyards have generated increased safety procedures and management across the country.
Many states have tried to improve upon the basic law knowing that whatever they came up with, it would have to be as comprehensive as the Federal Law or more so. Several States (California and Michigan among others), have tried to established their own standards. California being the only state that has mandatory standards in place. Michigan has been trying to progress their guidelines to mandatory standards for 5 years with little success until this year.
On January 14th 2009 Michigan had moved forward with their "Ergonomic Proposed Standard". However, on the 27th of January 21 Michigan Senators introduced a bill to keep their guidelines from 2002 as the rules of the state.
The Obama administration has vowed to make changes in the function of OSHA and has the power in Congress to enact radical changes without debate.
This may have tremendous implications for industry and the Ergonomist as well. Increased proactive evaluations, screening, post injury testing and education programs may be possible changes. Fitness evaluations for those who have been injured and are scheduled to return to work may also be part of our duties. During the coming year, we can be assured that changes will be made. Time will tell of what value they will provide and how testing will be viewed.
According to Dr. Robert M. Sapolsky in his book "Why Zebras Don't Get Ulcers," he studied a decade's worth of records at a suburban hospital, noting how many painkillers were requested by patients who had just had gallbladder surgery. He found that patients who had a view of trees from their windows requested a significantly lower amount of pain medication than those who looked at blank walls. Life could be less painful if "You, view a Yew."
Did you know…?
If you let a glass of cold-water stand around for a few hours and it warms up, you'll see bubbles of air forming on the walls of the glass. The air that was dissolved in the cold water cannot be retained when the temperature increases, and it starts to turn to a gas again and escapes. Water goes "flat" just like beer.
Ergo Websites, Ergo Products, gadgets and doodads
When is a Whale Not a Whale?
When it is a "Switch". Humanscale has reintroduced the "Whale" mouse under their new brand name "Switch". For those of you who have been looking for the popular expandable mouse, go to Humanscale to find it. It has a new added feature that allows the mouse to be used more comfortably with either right or left hand by adjusting a small flange on the bottom of the unit. It has been a very useful option for individuals with long fingers and hands who were looking for total contact support from their input device.
This newsletter produced in association with ERGOCATION, LLC.
In this issue:
• Topics from the Journals and Websites
• Back School of Atlanta News
• The Government Corner
• Ergo Science
• Did you know...
• Ergo Websites, Ergo Products, gadgets and doodads
Upcoming Back School of Atlanta Workshops:
LEVEL I: Musculoskeletal Disorders and Ergonomics Certification
Arlington, TX - June 6 & 7, 2009
Las Vegas, NV - July 11 & 12, 2009
Robert Niklewicz, PT, DHSc, CIE, CEAS
Ronald W. Porter, PT, CEAS
Director, Back School of Atlanta