Thursday, October 15, 2015

Young Workers - Retail/Grocer Stores/Convenience Stores:Safe Lifting

Grocery stores provide a vital service to the American public, and are a major source of employment in the United States. In recent years, the efforts of grocery store managers and employees have resulted in fewer occupational injuries and illnesses. Even with these efforts, thousands of grocery store workers are still injured on the job each year (2).

Many grocery stores have taken actions such as those recommended in this document to help reduce exposures to ergonomic risk factors in their effort to reduce workplace injuries.

Some grocery store work can be physically demanding. Many grocery store workers handle thousands of items each day to stock shelves, check groceries, decorate bakery items, and prepare meat products. These tasks involve several ergonomic risk factors. The most important of these include force, repetition, awkward posture, and static postures (4).

In the grocery store industry, the presence of these risk factors increases the potential for injuries and illnesses. In these guidelines, OSHA uses the term musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) to refer to a variety of injuries and illnesses, including:
  • Muscle strains and back injuries that occur from repeated use or overexertion;
  • Tendinitis;
  • Carpal tunnel syndrome;
  • Rotator cuff injuries (a shoulder problem);
  • Epicondylitis (an elbow problem); and
  • Trigger finger that occurs from repeated use of a single finger.
Just because an employee develops an MSD does not mean it is work-related. As required by OSHA’s recordkeeping rule (29 CFR 1904), employers should consider an MSD to be workrelated if an event or exposure in the work environment either caused or contributed to the MSD, or significantly aggravated a pre-existing MSD. For example, when an employee develops carpal tunnel syndrome, the employer needs to look at the hand and forearm activity required for the job and the amount of time spent doing the activity. If an employee develops carpal tunnel syndrome, and his or her job requires frequent hand activity, or forceful or sustained awkward hand motions, then the problem may be work-related. If the job requires very little hand or arm activity then the disorder may not
be work-related.

Activities outside of the workplace that involve physical demands may also cause or contribute to MSDs. In addition, development of MSDs may be related to genetic causes, gender, age, and other factors. Finally, there is evidence that reports of MSDs may be linked to occupationally-related psychosocial factors including job dissatisfaction, monotonous work and limited job control (6). However, these guidelines address only physical factors in the workplace that are related to the development of MSDs.

Grocery stores that have implemented injury prevention efforts focusing on musculoskeletal and ergonomic concerns have reported reduced work-related injuries and associated workers’ compensation costs. Fewer injuries can also improve morale, reduce employee turnover, encourage employees to stay longer and discourage senior employees from retiring early. Workplace changes based on ergonomic principles may also lead to increased productivity by eliminating unneeded motions, reducing fatigue and increasing worker efficiency. Healthier workers, better morale, and
higher productivity can also contribute to better customer service.

These guidelines present recommendations for changing equipment, workstation design, or work methods with the goal of reducing workrelated MSDs. Many ergonomic changes result in increased efficiency by reducing the time needed to perform a task. Many grocery stores that have already instituted programs have reported reduced MSDs, reduced workers’ compensation costs, and improved efficiency.

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