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For Immediate Release
December 6, 2002
Contact Information:
Kevin Weeks 503-947-7428  (direct dial)
kevin.s.weeks@state.or.us


Oregon OSHA offers new ergonomics Web site


The Oregon Occupational Safety and Health Division (Oregon OSHA) now has new research, resources and practical solutions to workplace ergonomic problems as close as a mouse click away. The agency, which regulates workplace safety for the majority of workers in Oregon, launched a new Web-based resource on November 1st to provide Oregon's employers and workers with the latest recommendations and industry-specific information.


Ergonomics is the science of adapting the work environment to meet the needs of the worker.Ergonomics has gained the most attention surrounding office injuries and repetitive-motion injuries on assembly lines. The challenge for people like Mark Noll, ergonomics consultant for Oregon OSHA, is convincing workers in other industries that they are also faced with ergonomic problems. "When we work with safety committees and ask them where have you heard about ergonomics, the first thing they say is we heard about carpal-tunnel syndrome with office workers," says Noll. "Then when you start sharing with them the injury problems in their industries, like back strains and sprains, they're surprised to find out it really does apply to their workplace, too."


The Web site
, available through Oregon OSHA's home page, www.orosha.org, offers ergonomic research and solutions for the construction industry, healthcare, agriculture, wood products industry, general industrial settings and office environments. In 2000, almost 26 percent of the 1.7 million Americans injured at work were service sector workers with injuries related to muscle, nerve or tendon damage. In Oregon, one-fifth of the 24,645 workers' compensation accepted disabling claims in 2001 were due to back strains and sprains. Practicing good ergonomics can increase work productivity by reducing down-time caused by worker injuries, stress and fatigue.


Some of the back injuries paid out in workers' compensation claims result from working in what ergonomists like Noll call "awkward postures" where the human body is extended for a period of time. "Those occur when working very low off the floor," says Noll, "The worker is bending and working off the floor, or working too high, say at above shoulder height. Employers can walk through their workplaces and have an eye for those situations where people will do a lot of bending, a lot of reaching or working too high. If the employer can figure out ways to just get the objects closer to the worker, that goes a long way in reducing the risk of injuries."


Ergonomic losses can add up quickly for a small business. Depending on the industry, workers' compensation claims can average between eight and thirteen thousand dollars per claim in direct costs for lost-time disability medical costs.


The Web site makes it easy for employers to find "real world tested" solutions for injury problems. The "Ergonomics for Construction" page provides analysis of frequent injuries which occur on Oregon construction sites, an ergonomics checklist (in English and Spanish) to survey for hazards, key questions to ask during the preplanning process, and how to identify hazards in specialized applications such as concrete work, utility placement, mechanical systems, residential construction, drywall installation and masonry. Oregon OSHA's "Wood Products Ergonomics" page features detailed reports on frequent injuries reported by logging operations, saw and planing mills, and related wood products industries. This page offers a number of solutions to address potential repetitive motion injuries that exist in log scaling, circular blade handling, debarkers, trim saws, conveyors and many other wood products operations.


Training is an important part of improving ergonomic conditions. The Web site features information about the four ergonomics training courses (including one on-line course) offered by Oregon OSHA. Employers can also request an on-site evaluation from an Oregon OSHA ergonomics consultant directly on the new Web page.


The Web site features numerous links to research sources in Oregon, Washington, Canada and federal agencies including the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration and the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health.