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Support Staff Ergonomics Policy & Procedure

Policy

Applies to: All University employees

Michigan State University strives to maintain a safe and healthy workplace for all University employees. Workplace ergonomics is of increasing importance to employee health and safety. This policy is established to promote and protect employee health through ergonomically-sound practices.

Several general principles guide MSU efforts in the ergonomics area, including the following:

Immediately after hiring a new employee or making significant changes in assigned responsibilities of an employee in place, supervisors should determine the adequacy of the employee's familiarity with ergonomics principles and practices applicable to the new job responsibilities and locale. When needed, training should be provided.

Employees receiving ergonomics training should be encouraged to consider the applicability of training content to activities undertaken outside the workplace.

When employees are provided unfamiliar or significantly changed new tools, equipment, or work stations, the training in the use of the tool, equipment, or work station should routinely address ergonomics issues.

Ergonomics features of equipment, tools, and work stations (whether existing or under consideration for acquisition, construction or renovations) should be evaluated. The employee(s) who will be working with the aforementioned should participate in the evaluation.

Ergonomics training and improvement efforts by administrative units should receive appropriate programmatic and budgetary priority. The efforts should be continuous, to ensure periodic reconsideration of ergonomics issues in light of environmental change and recent research. As with all such unit-level activities, a unit's intentions, priorities, and results achieved are properly discussed within the context of the annual APP&R or SSPP&R process, which permits major administrative unit (MAU)-level review and reinforcement.

In short, routine and widespread consideration of ergonomics issues should be institutionalized as a natural component in the conduct of University affairs.

Implementation of this policy is a shared responsibility of various administrative units and of all University employees. In particular:

Training: Departments/MAUs are responsible for ensuring provision of ergonomics education in their units. For example, employees working with video display terminals or highly repetitive tasks should have training in the fundamentals of ergonomics and cumulative trauma disorders (CTD) risk factors. Supervisors should have training in how they can work with employees to reduce the risk of injuries and illnesses. Units that provide primary training in the use of tools or equipment are responsible for routinely incorporating ergonomics concepts within such training.

Work station design: Incorporation of ergonomics principles in work site construction or renovation planning is a shared responsibility of all participating units, including the University Architect, Physical Plant, and Facilities Planning and Space Management. For this purpose, the work station should be considered to include furniture, electronic and other tools, lighting, and other environmental features. Departments/MAUs are responsible for individual work stations, once established. Each job site should provide an appropriate fit between the worker, the technology, and the working environment. Employees should be empowered to share in the responsibility for the safety of their workplace with their supervisor or appropriate others.

Job design: With leadership from departments and MAUs, supervisors are responsible for ensuring appropriate work methods. When considering an employee's regular job assignment, both pace of work and job flow should be reviewed to avoid excessively repetitive work for any one employee and his/her specific position.

Medical management: Employees suffering from job-related CTDs will have access to medical treatment and rehabilitative processes through MSU Human Resources Workers' Compensation. In these cases, ergonomics accommodations or improvements may be coordinated by Workers' Compensation. However, work station modifications and equipment cost decisions are line responsibilities, both financially and administratively.

Individual compliance: Employees are responsible to follow ergonomics policies and work practices directed or recommended for ergonomics purposes.

Procedure

The following procedures are to be followed by departments to ensure ergonomically-sound practices:

Compliance: If a MIOSHA compliance officer notifies your area of an impending inspection or simply visits your department/MAU, immediately contact the MSU Occupational Safety Officer (517-355-0153, or after hours call MSU Police at 355-5222 and indicate you need to contact the Hazmat Pager). The safety officer should be present for all investigations and will assist departments/MAUs with all responses to cited violations and/or citations. It is important to act immediately if notified by MIOSHA; severe penalties could arise if prompt action is not taken.

Training: Once a department/MAU identifies a need for CTD and/or ergonomics training, it may be obtained from:

Information and support sources: A number of academic units on campus offer courses and programs on the subject of ergonomics in the workplace. Many of these units are also involved in research projects on various ergonomics issues. These units include the following:

  • Planning, Design and Construction (517-432-0704),
  • Biomechanics (517-353-9110), and
  • Building Construction Management (517-353-0862).

Employees who have experienced a CTD illness may also obtain information and receive support through the Employee Assistance Program.

Work station evaluation: Once departments/MAUs identify work stations needing attention, assistance with work station evaluations can be obtained from Olin Physical Therapy (517-353-5008). Other providers may be approved by MSU Human Resources Workers' Compensation (517-353-4434 ext 40162 or 40163). Such evaluations typically entail a fee and can include recommendations for work station design modifications. Similarly, for a fee, Housing Construction and Design (517-355-7476) offers assistance with designing new work stations or reorganizing existing work stations. Departments/MAUs are responsible for reviewing the results of work station evaluations and taking necessary action to implement all reasonable and necessary modifications in a timely manner.

Job design: When departments/MAUs review the job design of particular positions, they should:

  • Identify types of repetitive tasks performed in an individual's position.
  • Recommend a job flow allowing on average of ten- to fifteen-minute alternative task breaks from repetitive tasks. As a general rule, time on repetitive tasks should not exceed two hours.
  • Communicate an approved, appropriate job flow to the employee to be maintained as part of the regular job assignment.

Questions regarding job design may be referred to MSU Occupational Health - Olin.

Medical management: If an employee complains of a CTD or other work-related injury or illness, departments/MAUs should:

Questions regarding medical management may be directed to MSU Human Resources Workers' Compensation (517-353-4434 Ext. 162 or 163). Questions on reasonable accommodation required under the Americans With Disabilities Act may be directed to the Resource Center for Persons with Disabilities.

Definitions:

  • Ergonomics: Is concerned with understanding the basic physical and psychological attributes of people as they relate to the things people use (tools, machines, environments). The goal of ergonomics design is to optimize the person-thing relationship, that is, the fit (Dainoff and Dainoff, 1986).
  • Repetitive tasks: Activities involving sustained or repetitive musculoskeletal exertion with no opportunity for rest or recovery. Examples of repetitive tasks are chopping by hand various food items, working with tools in a twisting motion, bending, lifting, data entry work.
  • Cumulative Trauma Disorder (CTD): Injuries developed gradually over periods of weeks, months, or even years as a result of repeated stresses on a particular body part as a result of mechanical stresses (Putz-Anderson, 1988).

Refer questions to:
Support staff: MSU Human Resources Benefits (517-353-4434 ext 40162 or 40163, e-mail)
Faculty: Associate Provost and Associate Vice President for Academic Human Resources (517-353-5300)


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