Did Your Holiday Gift of Power Come with Protective Eyewear?

Power Tools Require Safety Glasses

Never take safety short cuts, always wear proper eye protection when using power tools.

Perhaps you looked forward to the holidays with a little extra excitement this year because you just knew that the power tool you’d been dropping hints about all fall was under the tree or next to the Menorah, just waiting for your eager hands. Then “Hallelujah!” there it was! But was the very next gift you opened sort of smallish and light? Was it a pair of safety glasses or goggles to go with your new toy? No?? Then you have some online shopping to do before you tackle that first do-it-yourself project this winter.

Bob Vila, remodeling author and TV host, cautions power tool users to never trust their own glasses to protect their eyes. Vila advises you to wear either safety goggles or safety glasses with good side protection to avoid flying bits of wood and metal that can enter your eyes from the sides. Safety Glasses USA has just the right protection for you and your job in every size and price range, from Pyramex’s Ztek Safety Glasses with Clear Lens for $1.65, to Oakley’s Polarized Fast Jacket XL with Polished Black Frame and Black Iridium Polarized & Persimmon Lens for $280 — whatever your needs, we’ve get you covered.

Would you be curious to know whether your new power tool made Forbes’ list of the 10 Most Dangerous Power Tools? Check out the list below, then get those safety glasses ordered!:

  • Power Drills: The common household power drill sends 5,800 people a year to the ER.
  • Snowblowers: 5,700 patients a year arrive at the ER with 600 finger amputations, and 19 deaths since 1992. (Read more on our blog: “5 Important Snow Blower Safety Tips”)
  • Air Compressors: Strange as it may seem, air compressors cause 2,400 injuries a year.
  • Circular Saws: ERs see 10,600 patients a year thanks to these common tools.
  • Table Saws: 29,000 people a year end up at the ER due to accidents with table saws.
  • Power Nailers: Between 2001-2005, power nailers sent 37,000 people each year to emergency rooms. And, since their popularity has continued to grow, the number would be much higher if the survey were done today.
  • Riding Lawnmowers: An average of 37,000 people a year land in the hospital (with 95 deaths) using these seemingly harmless, everyday yard maintenance vehicles.
  • Chain Saws: Chain saws account for 36,000 ER cases a year.
  • Backhoes: Now available to any do-it-yourselfer who can afford to rent one, be warned. Even professionals are killed every year operating these complicated, heavy-duty pieces of equipment.
  • Wood Chippers: Only about 3 people per year die using wood chippers, but their size and power means it doesn’t take much for the worst to happen.

The most important step before you power up your new gift is to read the entire instruction manual thoroughly, then follow these additional safety tips:

  • Clamp your work down: Instead of using your free hand to hold the piece you’re cutting, use a clamp to hold it in place instead.
  • Stay awake and alert: ”People work when they’re tired and shouldn’t be working with tools,” warns Norm Abram, master carpenter for This Old House.
  • Wear protective eyewear at all times: Bob Vila knows what he’s talking about.
  • Don’t disable the safety: Abram was on a construction site when a carpenter fired a staple into his own thigh bone when he rested the tool against his leg. So if the safety guard on your new table saw is in your way, don’t remove it; return it to the store and buy a better quality saw.
  • Beware of the danger of ricochet: When a power nailer misses the pre-drilled hole in a piece of metal, it can bounce back and seriously injury your chest, face, neck, or eyes.

We do congratulate you on your new power tool, and we wish you all the best of luck with your projects, as well as lots of fun along the way. But we strongly encourage you to purchase the appropriate eye protection for your tool and your job before you get started, and then we urge you to form the habit of consistently wearing your safety glasses or goggles every time you work. Don’t let yourself become another statistic.

Understanding Ergonomics, Part II

Extreme Ergonomic Workstation

You don't need to resort to extreme measures to implement good ergonomic practices.

In “Understanding Ergonomics, Part I,” ergonomics was defined and the problem of a lack of ergonomics was discussed. In addition, the symptoms of repetitive strain injury were detailed along with the jobs at highest risk for such injuries. In this article, the benefits of and tips for implementing ergonomics along with creating a plan for assessing a space for ergonomic implementation will be explained. This article also discusses situations outside of the workplace that can benefit from implementing ergonomics.

Benefits of Implementing Ergonomics
Implementing ergonomics helps prevent repetitive strain injuries.  And as those injuries are reduced and in most cases eliminated or prevented altogether, additional benefits are seen. Those benefits include:

1.)    Increased Efficiency: Ergonomics allows workers to move at their most efficient level, which leads to workers who are healthier and pain-free. An efficient, healthy worker tends to produce better quality work.

2.)    Increased productivity: Efficient movement tasks leads to increased productivity. In fact, a 1986 study by the Army Corps of Engineers showed a 20.6% improvement in employee productivity one year after ergonomic furniture was installed.

3.)    Increased morale: Workers not dealing with headaches and sore muscles and especially with more severe repetitive strain issues and injuries caused by an uncomfortable working environment tend to be happier and their productivity naturally increases.

4.)    Increased work quality: As workers are more comfortable and able to work more efficiently, the quality of work increases as well.

5.)    Reduced turnover & absenteeism: Dan MacLeod, one of the most experienced professional ergonomists in North America notes that “one reason why workers are absent is that they are experiencing early stages of a musculoskeletal disorder.” He goes on to say that, “work that hurts doesn’t exactly encourage people to come every day.”

For more benefits of implementing ergonomics, see “How to Increase Profits with Ergonomics: 20 Ways to Cut Costs, plus One Way to Increase Revenues” by Dan MacLeod.

Tips for Maximizing Ergonomics
A variety of tips and techniques exist for maximizing ergonomics, and in most cases the best implementation strategy is not only job specific but specific to the individual as well. However, there are a few general tips that all individuals can consider, especially when beginning to implement ergonomics. The following tips provide a good stepping stone for working toward a larger and more comprehensive implementation of ergonomics.

1.)    Arrange Your Workspace: An ergonomic workspace is arranged to fit a worker’s body. In addition, tasks that are completed the most often should have supplies and equipment for that task within easy reach. Avoid reaching, twisting and poor posture on a regular basis.

2.)    Use Good Work Habits: Using variety in type of movements and tasks, employing good posture, and increasing efficiency through placement of supplies and equipment are all good work habits that will help increase the benefits of ergonomics.

3.)    Incorporate Regular Exercise & Stretching: Exercising the eyes as well as stretching the body regularly add to the benefits of ergonomics.

Ergonomics Assessments
Ergonomics does not have a one-size-fits-all approach. Instead, a situation analysis (formal or informal) must be performed to determine what will be the most effective ergonomic approaches to implement.

For larger companies with deeper pockets, hiring an outside consultant to assess ergonomics in the workplace is a great option. For smaller companies and individuals, learning how to assess an environment for ergonomic adjustments can be extremely useful.  An assessment such as this ergonomics checklist to make the work environment more ergonomic can be an effective way for anyone, regardless of resources, to begin implementing positive ergonomic changes.

For both individuals and companies, checking out the industry-specific guidelines provided by OSHA and by the CDC can also prove helpful in implementing ergonomics in the workplace.

Ergonomics Outside of Work
Ergonomics is not something to be considered just for the workplace. Frequent travel as well as many tasks in the home can also benefit from ergonomics. Taking the time to consider “Business Traveling Ergonomic Tips” as well as “Home Ergonomics” can go a long way in making an individual healthier and happier in a more rounded way than just workplace ergonomics alone.

Understanding Ergonomics, Part I

Defining Ergonomics

Worker injured from poor ergonomics

Proper ergonomics will help prevent many repetitive strain injuries.

Ergonomics is the science that “addresses human performance and well-being in relation to various types of jobs, equipment, tools and environments.” In other words, it’s the study of the way humans work.

The CDC states that “The goal of ergonomics is to reduce stress and eliminate injuries and disorders associated with the overuse of muscles, bad posture, and repeated tasks. This is accomplished by designing tasks, work spaces, controls, displays, tools, lighting, and equipment to fit the employee´s physical capabilities and limitations.”

Understanding the Problem

According to the US Department of Labor and Statistics, “in 2008 work-related musculoskeletal disorders – like nerve damage from typing and injuries caused by improper lifting – accounted for almost 30 percent of all workers’ compensation claims. That’s 317,440 claims to be exact, with each claim resulting in a median of 10 days out of work for injured parties and costing state fund employers millions of dollars.”

Musculoskeletal disorders are problems occurring in the soft tissue of the body such as muscles, tendons, blood vessels, ligaments and nerves. Common injuries to these tissues caused by lack of or insufficient ergonomics include back pain, chronic soreness, carpel tunnel syndrome, tendinitis and hernias. Injuries to soft tissues often occur not from improper methods or even from accidents but actually from repetitive tasks involving common movements. For example, a job involving typing all or most of the day can eventually result in carpel tunnel syndrome because an individual is doing the same type of movement for a long period of time.

Symptoms of and Treatment for Repetitive Strain

General symptoms of repetitive strain disorders include pain and/or discomfort that fails to recede after a couple of days, swelling, stiffness, tight muscles, inflexibility, numbness, tingling, a feeling of pins and needles and weakness. Ergonomics can help prevent and treat these disorders. Treatment of more advanced cases can include rest, braces, physical therapy and even surgery. But the earlier ergonomics are employed, the less likely these treatments measures will be needed, especially the more invasive ones such as surgery.

Jobs at Highest Risk for Ergonomics Problems

Jobs at highest risk for the repetitive strain injuries that ergonomics can help to prevent and alleviate are ones that have one or more of a variety of risk factors. Those factors include jobs where a worker is subjected to the following:

  • High force such as when lifting/carrying or pushing/pulling a heavy load.
  • High repetition such as when one does the same type of work for the duration of a day or when one continually uses the same limbs or muscle groups. Examples include pushing a button constantly throughout the day and standing in one place or sitting upright without back support for an extended period time.
  • Awkward posture such as when wrists are bent for using a tool, the back is bent forward or twisted, or the neck is bent up, down or to the side.
  • Overhead work where arms are held above shoulder height.
  • Static work where tools are held steady or an individual must sit for long periods of time.
  • Vibration when operating machinery (drill, grinder, etc.) or driving equipment over rough terrain (dump truck drivers for example).
  • Contact stress caused when the end of a tool or perhaps a piece of machinery constantly pushes against a part of the body. (Examples include using a screwdriver for long periods of time.)
  • Constant exposure to cold such as foodservice workers who handle frozen food or working in a cold environment such as construction workers who work outside in winter.

Repetitive strain injury is a significant workplace issue that companies are continually forced to address in one way or another. To help in that endeavor, stay tuned for Part II next week where implementing and maximizing ergonomics will be discussed along with applying ergonomics outside of a typical workplace environment.