The 2018 OSHA Best Practices Workshop

Posted by: Populytics
Date: November 19, 2018

Exchanging ideas on employee safety, learning about corporate wellness

What happens when you get environmental health and safety managers from a varied cross-section of regional businesses together in one room? You get ideas, innovation, and momentum! That was the case at Knoll, the East Greenville, Pa. furniture manufacturing company that hosted the 9th annual 2018 OSHA Best Practices Workshop in October.

The event was organized by representatives from numerous firms in southeastern Pennsylvania, and was facilitated by Scott G. Shimandle, Compliance Assistance Specialist – Industrial Hygienist at USDOL/OSHA’s Allentown Area Office. Scott kicked off the open forum with a review of the last meeting and related questions, which generated a flood of suggestions, testimonials, and stories about successful health and safety practices at respective businesses.

Healthy workers, healthy business

About halfway through the morning, two board-certified health coaches from Populytics/BeneFIT Corporate Wellness presented “Wellness and Safety – Connecting the Dots to Total Worker Health.” Kacie Heilman Miller, CHWC, ISSA-PT, NBC-HWC, talked about the psychology of behavior change, what it takes to change a company culture, and how to develop a strategic plan for workplace wellness. She relayed a story about one of BeneFIT’s clients and her strategy for implementing behavior change in a non-compliant atmosphere.

“When I first started visiting this company, where a male-dominated employee population worked primarily on a massive number of loading docks, no one would speak to me,” she said. She explained how she went ahead and started a morning stretching program outside on the docks, among the workers. At first, everyone ignored her. She added an incentive to turn the activity into a friendly competition, and that’s finally what caused it to take off. “The employees are still out there today stretching, and they’re not even using an incentive anymore,” she said.

Colleague Tiffany Ritter, RD, LDN, NBC-HWC, CHWC, focused on diet and health, taking the audience through the steps to creating a healthy food stand that will work for any size or type of company. She covered food choices, logistics, and how to get employees engaged, along with operational tips. Kacie finished the presentation with a short stretching session that merged into a lunch break with healthier food options for attendees.

The event underscores recent discussion and news about the value of combining health – both physical and mental – with safety practices because all are interconnected.

Connecting employee wellness and safety

Efforts for substantiating a “total health” perspective for better health and cost reduction have been underway nationally for some time. The Campbell Institute at the National Safety Council has done extensive work to bridge safety and health in the workplace. Its studies have confirmed that poor worker health can compromise worker safety. It also shows that wellness can improve it. This belief led to the formation of Total Worker Health®, a national program that merges workplace safety with health promotion. Backed by research evidence, the conclusion is that integrating wellness and employee safety is the most effective way to protect workers.

In regard to mental health, the World Health Organization says our experience in the workplace is one of the factors determining overall well-being. Employers who enact workplace initiatives to promote mental health and to support employees who have mental disorders see gains not only in the health of their employees but also in their productivity. A negative working environment, on the other hand, may lead to physical and mental health problems, harmful use of substances including alcohol, absenteeism, and lost productivity.

Uncovering the facts about injury prevention

The second part of the Best Practices Workshop featured Holly Ehrenfried, OTD OTR/L CHT, Occupational Therapist with HealthWorks, the occupational health arm of Populytics.

In her session, “Injury Prevention: What Works and How Not to Waste Your Money,” she discussed how injuries conceptually occur, and reviewed the top 10 workplace injuries as seen by HealthWorks. Low back pain claimed the top spot. Holly provided statistics surrounding back pain, and explained its impact on the individual and the workplace. The session pinpointed posture and bending positions that create pressure on the lower back and increase chance of injury. She also challenged 10 popular injury prevention ideas and analyzed whether or not they are worthwhile.

Ten takeaways from the presentation

  • LIFT WITH THE KNEES. That’s fine, but include the hips along with bending the knees for proper, safe lifting that goes easier on the back. Enlist the power of the brain: Prep your body and make thoughtful movements to encourage safe lifting.
  • STRETCHING. Proper stretching prior to work engagement can be highly beneficial. The newer method of dynamic, movement-based, warm-up stretching has greater benefit than the older method of static stretching.
  • CORE STRENGTHENING. There are proven benefits to core strengthening for injury prevention. There are some techniques that are preferred over others; the session included photos or proper, beneficial exercises, as well as exercises that could do more damage than good.
  • HAVING A BALL AT WORK. Are exercise balls beneficial as replacements for desk chairs? This was reviewed along with debunking the concept of the ball as a weight loss tool.
  • SIT TO STAND WORKSTATIONS. There are benefits and short falls to desks that raise so workers can stand at their computer keyboard. The best scenario: When the entire desk top can be raised and the employee spends 2/3 of the work day sitting, ¼ of the day standing, and the remaining time doing some sort of movement.
  • JOB ROTATION. Key benefits to job rotation programs were discussed as well as some pitfalls and fears that can prevent a program from being effective.
  • THE “EVIL” COMPUTER MONITOR. Not an evil at all when the monitor or monitors is/are positioned properly. Improper positioning can lead to pain and injury in the long term.
  • ANTI-FATIGUE MATS. These can help employees who stand for a significant portion of their day, and Holly presented practical tips for their use.
  • BACK SUPPORT BELTS. Contrary to popular belief, back belts do not provide long-term benefits. In fact, they can be detrimental by impeding back/core muscles from developing naturally.
  • TREADMILL WORKSTATIONS. They break up sitting time, but are they beneficial? The evidence is not complete that they actually help, and they can create a fall risk.

Contact us for details on our occupational health services and BeneFIT Corporate Wellness.

Look for more progress toward a holistic approach to employee health coming in 2019 from Populytics. Learn more about data analytics and its role in population and employee health.