In order to assist a facility with concerns surrounding detrimental impacts to employee health, such as increased noise exposure and back pain issues, a number of actions can be taken. Initially, it is essential to assess the situation at the facility concerning noise exposure and possible causes of musculoskeletal disorders, especially in the region of the back, through a variety of methods. Following the analysis, a number of reduction, prevention, and coping strategies can be assessed and selected to address the issues.
A number of tools and methods can be implemented in order to better understand the potential or occurring noise issues within the facility. Initially, a handheld Sound Level Meter or the NIOSH Sound Level Meter App can be employed to distinguish all primary and obvious sound and noise levels or issues (O’Neill Engineered Systems, 2019). Further investigation with more specialized tools will be necessary.
First, a dosimeter can be used to measure the noise exposure of a person, which is integrated over a certain period of time. This tool will result in a measured dose or equivalent sound level and is the most accurate when it comes to personal noise exposure. Second, an integrated sound level meter will assist with the measurement of sound energy over a particular time duration. The tool will provide an Equivalent Continuous Sound Level, also known as a Leq Value, which illustrates the sound exposure divided by the time period when it was measured. Third, it may not be necessary, but an Impulse Sound Level Meter can be used to assess short bursts of sound, essentially mimicking the response of the human ear. The data gathered from the following measurements can provide an accurate analysis of the noise exposure within the designated Amazon facility, wherein both hearing aids are used as reports of missed workdays due to back pain and injuries have occurred.
It is vital to design a plan that will address both noise reduction and the prevention of hearing loss in the workplace. For noise reduction, it will be important for the plan to incorporate the Recommended Exposure Limits (REL) and the OSHA Occupational noise exposure 1910.95 policies (National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, 2018). Adhering to the limits would require the increased use of safeguards, better noise reduction gear, training for proper use of equipment, and replacement of faulty or outdated tools. In relation to conveyor belts and presses, a number of engineering solutions can be implemented to address the noise concern at the source.
Mechanical shocks can be installed between solid pieces, unbalanced rotating equipment can be adjusted, friction can be reduced between metal components, and irregular fluid flow or vibration of large plates can also be restored or repaired in accordance with the general machinery (Morata et al., 2011). A number of process-alternating implementations can also be used to combat the noise concerns within the facility. For instance, welding or squeeze riveting can be used instead of impact riveting, cutting fluid can be used in machining processes, impact action can be substituted by progressive pressure actions, and mechanical limit stops can be exchanged for micro-switches.
To address the second concern of back pain in the workplace, it is vital to assess the facility for risk factors of poor ergonomics and musculoskeletal disorders. Some noticeable hazards can include the exertion of excessive force, repetitive performance of tasks, work in awkward postures, prolonged action in unergonomic postures, localized pressure on a body part, excessively cold temperatures, and exposure to vibrations (United States Department of Labor, n.d.).
Exposure to multiple risk factors should also be noted, as it may lead to several difficulties or causes of musculoskeletal disorders. A five-step assessment plan can be employed after observation for primary risks. First, a review of existing data must be conducted; this includes the analysis of workplace history of musculoskeletal disorders, the ergonomics of the current environment, workplace injury reports, first aid logs, and worker’s compensation reports. Second, a number of analysis tool kits can be used to gain a better understanding, including but not limited to the NIOSH lifting equation, hand-arm vibration calculator, and rapid entire and upper limb assessments (Proactive MD, 2019).
Third, a subjective interview with employees can also reveal invisible or not immediately seen risk factors. Not only does this step allow for honest and deep insight into potential issues, but it forms an openness in the employees for further change. Questions can primarily focus on topics such as repetitive motions, discomfort, tiredness, feelings of unsafety, and things that can improve the current status of the workplace. Fourth, after the objective and subjective data have been collected, they can be grouped by priority, department, or other factors that may be relevant to the future design plan. Fifth, the collected information should be analyzed in a way that results in a comprehensive list of risk factors and risk reduction opportunities concerning ergonomic hazards and occurring or potential musculoskeletal disorders.
A plan that tackles back pain and injuries in the workplace should focus on risk reduction, installation of safety equipment, an appropriate work schedule and process, as well as lifestyle alterations that can benefit the workers for pain and soreness management. Additionally, the priority of any facility is the prevention of accidents, and as such, there are a number of strategies that can be implemented to avoid risks and actual back injuries or musculoskeletal disorders.
First, a training program should be available to employees at all times that can instruct on proper positioning and movement when carrying heavy items (Samad, 2017). Second, the facility’s managers should be considerate of the fact that repetitive tasks can be harmful to employees and include breaks, stretches, and the rotation of tasks. Third, the employees should have appropriate equipment readily available, including tie-down straps, dollies, and forklifts. Fourth, the management teams and employees should be conscious of other risk factors, such as smoking, older age, and other aspects that can influence injury in the workplace. Fifth, more frequent ergonomic assessments should be observed over the implementation of the changes, and beyond it, revision can be essential to such a process. Sixth, the management and leadership should aim to promote special training, wellness programs, and improved supervision. The combination of changes focusing on administrative policies, workplace behavior, and technical aspects of the facility is likely to reduce the number of injuries in the facility, though a post-implementation assessment will be necessary to observe any inadequacies or gaps in the plan.
A steady improvement can be observed after thorough research of workplace issues and their origins. In order to reduce the chances of musculoskeletal disorders or hearing loss in the facility, an exhaustive method of analysis and data collection is essential. The gathered data is likely to give insight into the specific issues that are causing missed workdays and detrimental effects on workers’ health. After the data has been collected and the issues are clear, a plan that prioritizes the most common and hazardous risks can not only improve the work efficiency of the facility but benefit the employee’s health and work process.
Morata T. C., Byrne, D. C., & Ravinowitz, P. M. (2011). Section III.21: Noise exposure and hearing disorders. In Levy, B. S., Wegman, D. H., Baron, S. L., & Sokas, R. K. (Eds.). Section I.2: Recognizing and preventing occupational and environmental disease and injury. In Occupational and environmental health: Recognizing and preventing disease and injury (6th ed., 461-475). New York: Oxford University Press.
National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health. (2018). Workplace safety and health topics: Noise and hearing loss prevention.Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Web.
O’Neill Engineered Systems. (2019). Measuring a Facility’s Noise Levels. Noise Problems. Web.
Proactive MD. (2019). How to Perform an Ergonomic Assessment in the Workplace. Proactive MD. Web.
Samad, M. A. (2017). Ergonomics and the Prevention of Musculoskeletal Strain and Back Injuries. International Journal of Engineering and Advanced Technology, 6(3), 40-43. Web.
United States Department of Labor. (n.d.). Ergonomics. Occupational Safety and Health Administration. Web.