Ergonomics working group: leaves due to musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) reduced by 55%
Musculoskeletal disorders are intrinsic to industrial jobs, but to what extent can they be avoided? Arania found that in 2020, the main work-related accidents were caused by muscular injuries. Thus, a working group was established to identify and resolve situations that could lead to a higher number of musculoskeletal disorders among the staff. Arania has now achieved a 55% reduction in lost time due to musculoskeletal injuries thanks to the participation and commitment of the employees. Investing in safety pays off, and the results speak for themselves.
When working in industrial environments, injuries must be taken into account. Besides the risks related to working with heavy equipment, moving parts, high temperatures or dangerous tools (day-to-day life in Arania’s rolled steel plant, for example), many other situations can lead to musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) with varying degrees of severity.
In an industrial site, the most common accidents and occupational conditions are related to MSDs. Work-related MSDs represent more or less serious physical injuries, sometimes barely noticeable, but they prevent the correct performance of the job in full safety conditions. Usually, work-related MSDs mainly affect the back, neck, shoulders and limbs —both upper and lower— and include any damage or disorder of joints or other tissues.
With careful study, planning and a thorough knowledge of each occupation and task performed in the company as a whole, these injuries can be prevented to a large extent. In other words, they can be avoided, but in one way or another, there will always be small accidents, falls or injuries caused by poorly executed movements or unpredictable events. However, the question is how far these safety issues can be reduced through the cooperation of operators, managers and supervisors.
At Arania, we found that the main work-related accidents reported in 2020 were due to muscular injuries. These data were revealing (and also concerning), so a working group was set up to analyse them, together with plant operators and area managers, with the objective of overseeing staff health and avoiding unnecessary, painful and annoying muscle injuries. Over six weeks, the group collected and analysed 34 proposals from case studies, 14 of which have already been succesfully implemented.
The numbers speak for themselves: actions implemented thanks to the involvement of the employees in the working group have led to a 55% reduction in sick leave due to muscular accidents in 2021, compared to the previous year.
The focus should be on primary prevention, but also on measures to minimise the severity of any injury. All workers should receive adequate information, training and instruction regarding health and safety at work, so that specific hazards and risks can be avoided.
For workers in the rolled steel industry and manufacturing plants, injuries at work are often due to muscular overexertion induced by poorly executed movements, awkward working positions, repetitive tasks, impacts, or by handling loads manually.
- The most important step in preventing work-related risks and injuries is to act wisely by knowing our own limits and those of our work, always observing the safety instructions applicable in each situation.
- Workstation and equipment: adaptation of the layout to improve the working position of our body, and equipment designed ergonomically and suitable for the tasks to be carried out.
- Work planning to avoid repetitive or prolonged tasks in bad positions. Breaks should be planned, tasks should be alternated or work reassigned.
- Set up both a safety policy to improve work organisation and a work-related psychosocial environment fostering the musculoskeletal health of the employees.
Factory work is not the only area prone to MSDs. In office jobs or tasks requiring long sitting periods (such as administration, project management, security guards, transport workers, certain workers in the plant, etc.), one of the most common conditions are back and neck contractures. To prevent lumbago, it is important to use ergonomic chairs where the spine is straight and close to the backrest, in order to maintain the correct posture. Also, getting up from time to time and stretching can help prevent the muscles from stiffening.
Arania’s objective is to consolidate this trend, making all the company’s resources available for health and safety and implementing new measures to safeguard bone and muscle health for all its staff. This dynamic takes place within the framework of several safety projects currently ongoing in the Group, such as the Excellent Safety plan, which is driving a cultural change towards safety thanks to the high involvement and strong commitment of employees from different divisions.