4 steps to assess, avoid musculoskeletal injury

Posted on 30 April 2010

By Maggie Cox, editorial coordinator

Safety is an ongoing concern for our industry. From fire-resistant suits to protective eyewear and headgear, rig crews have access to a plethora of external protective equipment safety. But what about protecting workers from self-induced musculoskeletal pain, strain and discomfort?

Leading contributors to musculoskeletal injury include cumulative trauma and acute overload, according to Andy DuBose, senior consultant for Safety In Motion.

The photos above show the “stressed” and “better” way of bending over to reach for an object. “Using Safety In Motion techniques like ‘Same Side Hand and Foot’ recruits better muscles, provides best leverage and easier alignment,” the company said.

The photos above show the “stressed” and “better” way of bending over to reach for an object. “Using Safety In Motion techniques like ‘Same Side Hand and Foot’ recruits better muscles, provides best leverage and easier alignment,” the company said.

Changing the way one thinks about his or her workspace and physical technique  can result in fewer injuries, which means less time-loss and cost for the company, and healthier, happier employees at the end of the day.

According to Matt Hallinan, vice president of HSE and training, Superior Energy Services, addressing this problem for his company was imperative to resolving not only employee injuries but also costs accrued because of these injuries.

“I think it’s one of the missing elements that hasn’t been focused on when we look at overall safety and training,” Mr Hallinan said. “Traditionally, we train a person on ergonomics, back safety, but never something that encompasses the whole body.”

After seeing that musculoskeletal injuries among the company’s aging work force were the most common types of injuries sustained, he went to find help and discovered Safety In Motion.

“Based on what we’ve seen throughout the industry and our own company, this type of integrated safety program will be increasingly important for our industry,” Mr Hallinan said. “We want to make sure we’re continually staying on top of new ways we can protect our employees.”

Employees are taught practical techniques that apply to on- or off-the-job applications. The techniques are simple to apply and taught through physical demonstration and practice in the classroom. This leads to understanding, retention and transfers to application in the field and at home, Mr DuBose said.

The program offers a series of techniques that encourages employees to engage their minds first when assessing a potentially hazardous task.

“You can assess and quantify risk that leads to musculoskeletal disorders by identifying where unnecessary force, fatigue and stressed posture are present,” Mr DuBose said.

Training is enhanced with computer animations to make life easier for the certified SIM trainers to teach employees.

“To really get people to change, we found you need to keep reminding them in new and creative ways,” Mr DuBose said. “So in SIM4, we added a bunch of online features to do that.”

These photos demonstrate the “stressed” way of pulling a trash bag out of a trash can (left) and the “better” way (right). The “better” way exhibits the methods of “applying ‘smart set-up,’ which provides less strain and makes every day tasks easier,” said Andy DuBose, Safety In Motion senior consultant.

These photos demonstrate the “stressed” way of pulling a trash bag out of a trash can (left) and the “better” way (right). The “better” way exhibits the methods of “applying ‘smart set-up,’ which provides less strain and makes every day tasks easier,” said Andy DuBose, Safety In Motion senior consultant.

For instance, employees can take pictures of safe and not-so-safe behaviors on their job site and upload them into SIM4. They can then create safety posters to use in regular safety meetings.  Those posters are instantly available to all employees at all locations.

“The field employees that have participated in this are very enthused about this process because it’s very simple,” Mr Hallinan said. “It’s uncomplicated, and it’s a process that people can take personal ownership in.”

SIM BIOMECHANICAL TECHNIQUES:

SIM4 program emphasizes several methods for employees and trainers to use when working. A simple way employees can assess their work situation, Mr DuBose suggested, is by asking the following questions:

1) Smart setup: Can I make a tool and equipment change here?

We should start with those things in our control.

Example A: Use a raised work surface to get the load closer to the worker’s body.

Example B: Use equipment to do more of the work.

2) Physical technique: Is there a physical technique that would make this easier?

Moving differently will reduce unnecessary stress and strain on the body.

Example A:  Slide the load closer to you before picking it up.

Example B:  Reach with the same-side hand and foot to avoid twisting strain on the lower back.

3) Would re-energizing help with fatigue or provide a needed break from repetitive motion?

Example: Re-energizers are a series of stretches that boost range of motion and increase circulation in the upper and lower body.

4) Would a second set of eyes on the task at hand help identify opportunity for improvements in setup or technique?

Example: Have a co-worker or supervisor observe the work/task with you.

“Many times, individual employees have limited personal control over ergonomics,” Mr DuBose said. “But Safety In Motion empowers employees to make small changes that make a big difference in the form of improved ergonomics, better physical technique and improved range of motion and circulation.”

The mentioned techniques/names are trademarks of Safety In Motion.

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