The Well Workplace

Deborah Lechner

Deborah Lechner, ErgoScience President, combines an extensive research background with 25-plus years of clinical experience. Under her leadership, ErgoScience continues to use the science of work to improve workplace safety, productivity and profitability.

Recent Posts

How ComputerVision AI Helps Companies with OSHA Compliance

Posted by Deborah Lechner
Oct 24, 2022 8:39:24 AM

How ComputerVision AI Helps Companies with OSHA Compliance blog graphic

What is ComputerVision AI?

 

ComputerVision AI is a broad category of technology that applies to everything from facility management to targeted ergonomic assessments. For this blog post, I will refer to ComputerVision AI for targeted and detailed ergonomic assessments. In this niche application, the software builds complex 3D models of the human body moving through space from standard videos – videos recorded through a mobile app or uploaded on web-based software. With this information, the system completes Industry-standard ergonomic assessments that quantify risks with a standard methodology that prioritizes interventions to prevent workplace injury.

 

After a video is uploaded, the system automatically determines the hazardous postures in a job, the frequency of movements, and the duration of postures held. Then the AI recommends which postures and parts of the body the Industrial Athlete should adjust to mitigate the risk of injury.

 

Benefits of ComputerVision AI. There are many benefits to using ComputerVision AI in the field of ergonomics:

  • The user obtains more objective ergonomic hazard analysis data
  • The hazard data covers the entire task, not just one brief snapshot of the task
  • The resulting data indicates the limb segments that are creating most of the risk
  • The program also predicts how much the industrial athlete can mitigate risk by addressing each limb segment.

ComputerVision AI Helps with OSHA Compliance.

Another huge side benefit of using ComputerVision AI is that it can help organizations remain in compliance with the requirements of OSHA 29 CFR 1910.269(a)(2)(iv). Paragraph 1910.269(a)(2)(iv) states the following: "The employer shall determine, through regular supervision and thorough inspections conducted on at least an annual basis, that each employee is complying with the safety-related work practices required by this section."

It's important to note that OSHA changed the word "and" in the paragraph above from "or" in 2014. In other words, employers can no longer claim compliance with OSHA 29 CFR 1910.269(a)(2)(iv) with just regular supervision. This change is significant. Conducting inspections of field personnel has become a regulatory compliance issue. Supervisors should perform a second observation after the industrial athletes implement any corrective action to ensure they follow through on the AI's recommendations.

Ergonomics is essential in any field inspection where workers handle materials, maintain their positions for extended periods, or perform repetitive movements. Of course, ergonomists can conduct field inspections without ComputerVision AI. BUT… they're more subjective, cumbersome to complete, and often employees are disengaged with the process. In addition, supervisors and managers are hesitant to do them because ergonomics isn't their expertise. ComputerVision AI does a lot of the work for the management team and provides them with the expertise they need.

ComputerVision AI Focuses on Leading Indicators.

OSHA requires employers to record their injury and illness statistics. But these statistics are lagging indicators. They often have little to no impact on the safety practices of an organization and the prevention of future injuries.

In contrast, regular field inspections provide leading indicators because they show whether employees apply safety principles in the field. In the case of ergonomics, field inspections show whether employees are lifting and carrying materials safely. They also identify situations where employees reach beyond the safety zone to obtain materials and supplies and get into unnecessarily awkward positions. Or when slightly changing work practices would minimize unnecessary risk. AI can prevent many, if not most, injuries by identifying these ergonomic hazards and evolving work practices, workstation setup, or using tools and equipment differently. 

ComputerVision AI helps managerial staff and safety managers conduct these inspections with confidence that they are basing their recommendations on objective data and not just subjective opinions.

ComputerVision AI engages frontline employees in the field inspection process.

Field inspections are not always well received by employees. But ComputerVision AI changes employee attitudes even within one inspection session.

How? Employees are curious about the technology. Evaluators can show them a previous example with their cell phones or tablets. Then employees start to wonder what they would look like if they improved their technique. What would their scores be? And at that point, their engagement pivots. They are more eager to be videotaped. In addition, the software can block their faces for privacy concerns. Once they receive feedback, are videotaped again, and see the dramatic changes in their scores, they are motivated to change.
When the session concludes with praise for a job done well and safely, observer-employee-employer relationships grow.

Reassessment with ComputerVision AI.

ComputerVision AI helps to determine the effectiveness of training, ergonomic modifications to tools and equipment, and workstation modifications. Performing observations with ComputerVision AI helps companies track data and analyze trends to determine future ergonomic-related needs, such as training, modifying workstations, and purchasing new PPE, tools, or equipment.  

Before You Begin Using ComputerVision AI

Starting a ComputerVision AI ergonomic inspection program at your company requires purchasing software or hiring ergonomic consultants specializing in ComputerVision AI inspections and training. Naturally, you'll have to get buy-in from leadership which means explaining the importance of meeting OSHA's requirement for field inspections, explaining the role of ComputerVision AI ergonomics in injury prevention, and, last but not least, presenting a projected return on investment.

OSHA and the National Council on Compensation Insurance's (NCCI) Workers Compensation Statistical Plan Database have statistics that can support your projections. Since the average direct and indirect costs of a lost time workplace injury are over $80K, it's often easy to justify these programs.

Once they sign on to the ComputerVision AI program, leadership should regularly participate in field observations. Regular observations will support field personnel's acceptance of the inspection program and help to strengthen the safety culture of the organization.

Corrective action policies are essential to consider before developing the inspection program. If you have a policy that reprimands employees based on the inspections or is otherwise negatively focused, it will be tough to get buy-in regardless of the technology used. You may need to negotiate a new policy or an addendum to the existing approach to allow for inspections and coaching without reprimand.

Conducting Inspections with ComputerVision AI

Safety management personnel, operations supervisors, and managers can conduct the ComputerVision AI ergonomic inspection program. ErgoScience experience has shown us that even though the technology is extremely user-friendly, those implementing ComputerVision AI will likely need some training in basic ergonomic principles, use of the technology, and field practice under supervision to maximize the success of the program. In addition, we provide a hotline for questions regarding the use of the technology or the appropriateness of recommendations.

One of the benefits of having supervisors or managers perform field inspections is that they can connect with frontline personnel, hear any concerns, and give positive feedback for correcting unsafe work practices. An advantage of having safety personnel conduct the field inspections is that they typically have a little more experience and knowledge, depending on their backgrounds, in the field of ergonomics.

For managers and supervisors to be effective in performing the inspections, they need training in the following:

  • The basic principles of ergonomics and safe work practices in manual materials handling
  • The use of the ComputerVision AI software and interpretation of the scores.
  • Coaching, explaining the software outputs to employees, and providing corrective feedback.
  • Providing sincere, positive feedback for improving safe work practices.
  • How to address concerns regarding equipment or workstation setup.

When a non-ergonomic infraction occurs during an ergonomic inspection, it presents an opportunity to find out why it happened. For example, perhaps a worker isn't wearing the appropriate PPE because of poor fit and discomfort. The solution would be to provide the worker with better-fitting PPE. Managers and supervisors should address major life-threatening safety infractions more firmly.

Scoring and Tracking

Once the videotaping is complete and uploaded into the software, the software calculates an overall task hazard score. It indicates which body segments contribute the most to the overall hazard score. The software also notes the percent improvement in the overall hazard score expected if the employee changes that body or limb segment position. Management can share the scores with the employee, and together the manager and frontline worker can problem-solve the best work practices to address the hazards. It might make the most sense for the organization to change the workstation setup or positioning of materials altogether to further aid in improving the scores.

Managers/supervisors need to recognize good work practices whenever possible and then offer feedback about what needs improvement to achieve a better score in the future.

After the audit is complete and supervisors share the results with employees; management can add notes to the reports stating what advice the employee received and attach another video of the worker using the recommended work practices. The safety team can use this method to provide a comparison report documenting change from pre to post-feedback.

Summary

OSHA requires field inspections, and ComputerVision AI can help make the process easier, more efficient, and more objective. Managers and supervisors are more willing to conduct the audits. Frontline workers get significantly more engaged than with standard ergonomic assessments and feedback. ComputerVision is a valuable tool that can help a company determine if evaluations and feedback have been effective. Maintaining documentation of these inspections keeps organizations in compliance with OSHA.

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The Turnover Hamster Wheel: Five Ways to Get Off It.

Posted by Deborah Lechner
Oct 17, 2022 10:53:29 AM

Hamster wheel of turnover blog pic

Since the pandemic, the average turnover rate has mushroomed to 47.5%! This means that nearly half of every position filled will need to be filled again. (1)

 

The Impact of Injuries.

And to make matters worse, newly hired employees are significantly more likely to experience a work-related injury within the first months of employment. A review of federal accident data showed that employees in their first year on the job account for 40% of all workplace injuries, and half of that 40% occurred within the first 90 days on the job. (2)

 In another study of 3752 employees, 31.2% terminated their employment before the first 2 months on the job. The risk of early resignation was significantly greater among those who had visited the occupational health clinic to address a work-related injury during those first 60 days. (3)

 

With 14 workplace injuries happening every second, you can bet that workplace injuries impact turnover. (4)

 

The Impact of Heavy Physical Demands.

It's not just injuries that create an early exit. In a study published in 2020 involving 2351 employees, heavy physical requirements such as awkward body postures, heavy lifting, and high work pace were associated with an early exit. (5) People who have never done physically demanding work or have done it in a while get easily overwhelmed with heavy lifting and highly repetitive work. The exit strategy is often not showing up for work the next day. One of our clients related the story of a delivery driver who abandoned his entire loaded truck in a parking lot rather than complete the rest of the workday!

Turnover is Expensive.

According to the Department of Labor, turnover is expensive, adding up to about a third of the replaced worker's annual salary in lost productivity, recruiting, retention, and replacement costs. Suppose the turnover is due to a lost-time injury. In that case, the company is incurring an additional $40K in direct injury costs and (according to OSHA) another $44K in indirect costs for a total injury cost of $84,000.

A Whopping Example.

Take the average warehouse worker earning $28,500. Based on the above figures:

  • turnover costs = $9.4K
  • lost time injury = $84K
  • Total Cost = $93K
  • Assume a 3% profit margin
  • Additional Sales to cover total injury costs = $2.8M

Once the other sales to cover the turnover costs have been added, the actual price of that lost time injury + turnover will equal an astounding $3M! That's the actual cost of injuries and turnover.

So, what can you do?

5 Ways To Get Off The Proverbial Wheel

  1. Pre Employment Testing of Physical Abilities.

    A logical first step for preventing injuries is hiring individuals capable of performing the physical requirements of the work. Pre-employment Physical Abilities Testing addresses two birds with one approach – not only are employees capable of performing the work less likely to be injured, but they are also less likely to depart early from their jobs. The current severe workforce shortage, however, makes eliminating job candidates for any reason difficult. Not to mention that recruiters are incentivized on the number of positions filled or the time required to fill positions (shorter being better). So, employers today are hiring just about anyone they can find.

But is this the way to hire? Let's look at some more numbers.

Without pre-hire Physical Abilities Testing, you can assume that approximately 10% (10) of those you hire will experience a lost time injury. If you hire 100 warehouse workers and each lost time strain or sprain requires the company to increase sales by $3M, suddenly, sales must be increased by $30M to make up for those bad hires. Did the company gain $30M worth of business by making those 10 bad hires? Only you and your organization can answer that…but, likely, the math does not add up.

  1. Physical Abilities Placement.

    If you're not convinced to do physical abilities testing to select applicants, consider using Physical Abilities Testing post-hire for placement. If you have jobs of varying levels of physical difficulty, you can use a test with multiple passing criteria and place people according to the level at which they passed.
  2. Ergonomic Assessment.

    Whether selecting or placing applicants or reducing the physical stress associated with your jobs makes sense. An ergonomic assessment, at least for the jobs creating most of the injuries, can help identify and quantify the ergonomic risk factors. ErgoScience utilizes Computer Vision AI for its ergonomics assessments. The use of this cutting-edge technology makes our assessments more objective and cost-effective. Supervisors can also use the technology for training your workforce in better materials handling and safer work practices.
  3. Ergonomic Training.

    Classroom training alone has been shown to have minimal impact on improving materials handling techniques or reducing strains and sprains. But with Computer Vision AI, you can personalize and augment your ergonomic training. The technology shows the front-line employees exactly which movements and body postures create ergonomic hazards. Repeating the assessment using better body mechanics or more safe work practices shows them the precise impact of those improvements and makes a lasting impression that engages and motivates employees to work smarter, not harder.

In addition, wearable sensors can reinforce the day-to-day implementation of your ergonomic training. They provide haptic feedback (think slight vibration) when employees get out of the safe zone, bend too much, twist the body, or lift in an unsafe manner. The haptic feedback helps them improve over time, and their progress can be tracked by safety/management. Reports can also show which areas of your operation create the most significant risk factors.

  1. OSHA-Compliant Early Intervention Programs (EIP)

    All of the above solutions are primary prevention approaches. But even if you implement all of them, there will still be some employees who experience fatigue and discomfort. The key is to have a program that can address this discomfort before it becomes full-blown pain and a recordable or worse - a lost time injury. OSHA allows three interventions that are considered "first aid" for musculoskeletal issues:
  • Heat and cold
  • Massage
  • Non-rigid supports (think kinesiotaping)

In addition, the EIP practitioner can educate program participants on proper lifting techniques, body mechanics, and body positioning for achieving the best ergonomic work practices. Most participants come for 3 to 6 30-minute sessions. The program can be administered onsite, provided there is ample space. The convenience of onsite promotes participation. Alternatively, the program can be provided by PTs in a near-site clinic. In our experience, at least 70% of participants decreased their discomfort and improved their function with EIP. The other 30% triage to a physician or physical therapist.

Bottom Line.

There's no question that injuries and turnover are sucking the life out of our businesses. Just think what you could do with the resources spent on the $3M/injury turnover! Raises? New Equipment? Research and development of new products and services? But it's not hopeless. Some strategies can have a significant impact on both injuries and turnover.

Act now. Click here to discuss ErgoScience injury and turnover prevention strategies.

Sources

(1) Bureau of Labor Statistics

(2) Christopher D. B. Burt. New Employee Safety: Risk Factors and Management Strategie, 2015

(3) Nathan C. Huizinga et al., Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2019 Feb; 16(3): 433.

(4) https://techjury.net/blog/work-related-injury-statistics/#gref/OSHA

(5) Angelo d’Errico et al, Int Arch of Occup Env Health, 2021 94, Feb 117–138.

(6) https://www.osha.gov/safetypays/estimator

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EJF'S or Essential Job Functions: Are Your Job Descriptions Up To An OFCCP OR EEOC Audit?

Posted by Deborah Lechner
Aug 26, 2022 11:03:47 AM

Compliance with federal regulations is high on most organizations’ priorities. No one wants the distraction and hassle of a federal audit, and when one occurs, they want to be found to be in compliance. Not to mention the desire to avoid lawsuits or costly fines.

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Why a Medical Release to Return to Work “ain’t all that…”

Posted by Deborah Lechner
Jul 19, 2022 10:50:33 AM

Return-to-Work Physical Abilities Testing in Workers’ Compensation Cases Changes the Game

After an injured worker has received medical treatment, physical therapy, – maybe even surgery - the release to work decision is typically made by the treating physician.

Is that a good thing? Not always…

The physician is deciding whether the injury is medically resolved or, in more chronic cases, whether the person has reached “Maximum Medical Improvement (MMI).

Typically, that decision is based on some combination of x-rays, MRIs, physical examination of the injured body part, standards of clinical practice, watching the patient move, or…asking the patient if they feel “ready to go back to work.”

You might say the decision is based 20-30% upon objective information but a whole lot based on intuition.

But no one has EVALUATED whether the person still has the physical ability to do the job…

After all, the person did the job BEFORE the injury. Why can he/she/they do the job NOW?

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Logistics KPIs: How Pre Hire Assessment of Physical Abilities Helps Achieve Them…

Posted by Deborah Lechner
Jul 12, 2022 2:43:10 PM

Pre Employment Testing of Applicant Physical Abilities Helps Logistics  Achieve KPIs

In the warehouse and logistics industry, it’s all about speed and accuracy. And the industry’s KPIs reflect those two factors:

Speed Related KPIs: On-Time Shipping – shows the percentage of shipments that left the warehouse on time. Inability to ship on time can create disappointed customers and decrease the likelihood that shipments make it to the customer in time for a pending event.

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The Stress of Heat Stress: How It Affects Your Workforce…

Posted by Deborah Lechner
Jun 22, 2022 3:40:57 PM

heat stress

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Food Processing & Production Injuries:  Can they be prevented?

Posted by Deborah Lechner
May 31, 2022 2:36:22 PM

This is the introduction for a five-part series on injuries and prevention strategies in the food processing and production industry.

The Food Production/Processing Industry:  Which industries are included?  

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Now that you've hired someone who can't do the job...what next?

Posted by Deborah Lechner
May 24, 2022 4:47:07 PM

If you think you just can't afford to do Pre-Hire Physical Abilities Testing with the current workforce shortage...what CAN you do to prevent injuries?    

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ISO 45001: Does It Relate to Injury Prevention?

Posted by Deborah Lechner
May 19, 2022 12:22:12 PM

Why the new ISO 45001 Standard for Occupational Health and Safety? 

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Supercharged Injury Prevention Strategies

Posted by Deborah Lechner
May 6, 2022 1:48:33 PM

 

 

 

 

Attend this free live virtual workshop June 14th at 12:00 pm CDT to find out...

The ChallengeWhile many safety and risk professionals are struggling to prevent injuries…

There’s a small group who are decreasing injuries on a consistent basis…

And it’s not because they are better safety/risk professionals than you…

Or that they more of an expert than you – far from it.

It’s all because they are using a time-tested process proven to:

Determine the root cause of injuries
Identify customized injury prevention programs
Seamlessly implement those programs

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