Statistics published by Safe Work Australia for 2015-16 report the average time off work for a Musculoskeletal Disorder is between 5-6 weeks. The average Workers Compensation claim cost for this type of injury in 2015-16 was $50,000. So the impact on your workers compensation premium could be significant, never mind the additional burden of being a person down in the brewery for an extended period of time.
Some Hazardous Manual Tasks (HMT) and their associated aches and pains can sometimes be easily tolerated by resilient brewers; however, this may be ignoring physical symptoms which may be inching a worker closer and closer to a musculoskeletal injury. HMT may include milling, keg handling or combining a heavy load with a task requiring high dexterity. Identifying HMT’s may not seem obvious when you are so familiar with the surrounds of your brewery, so you may need to assemble your “brains trust” and “assess the TILE”. TILE is explained in the IBASafe Manual Handling guide and refers to:
- Does the TASK involve twisting, stooping, bending, excessive travel, pushing, pulling or precise positioning of the load, sudden movement, inadequate rest or recovery periods, time pressures, supervision or consider ergonomics?
- Does the INDIVIDUAL require unusual strength or height for the activity, are they pregnant, disabled or have a pre-existing health condition? Is specialist knowledge or training required?
- Is the LOAD heavy, awkward to grasp, sharp, hot, cold, difficult to grip, are the contents likely to move or shift?
- Does the ENVIRONMENT consist of space constraints, uneven, slippery or unstable floors, variations in floor levels, extremely hot, cold or humid conditions, poor lighting, poor ventilation, congested paths of travel, gusty winds, clothing or Personal Protective Equipment that restricts movement?
Once you’re across “TILE”, use the IBASafe risk assessment form to document how you can make your brewery safer.
To ensure you consult all workers and not just your “brains trust”, consider using the discomfort survey (an IBASafe form) to understand what else could be causing physical symptoms, this may help brewers modify their tasks before they break themselves!
Ergonomic aids certainly make tasks easier, more sustainable and help people to be more productive. However, these are just one of the many controls available which may reduce the likelihood of an injury.
Informing workers on the importance of moving more before, during and after work. This can include warming up and down, 5 minutes of mobility exercises could sufficiently prepare you for your day. Being prepared may prevent 5 days off work or worse and the unfortunate impacts that are associated with a physical injury.
The hierarchy of controls for manual handling is to first eliminate the activity. If you can’t, then try to:
1. Alter the Brewery – Layout, Workstation Design and Working Position
2. Alter Environmental Conditions – Vibration, Temperature, Lighting and Housekeeping
3. Alter the Systems of Work – Job design, Pace and flow of work, Shift length and breaks
4. Change the objects used in the Task – Modify the load being handled, Modify tools & equipment and Provide mechanical aids
5. Embed Administrative Controls – Information, training and instruction in manual handling techniques, Standard Operating Procedures (SOP) and signage, supervision and verification.
Online manual handling training can create an awareness of what may cause physical trauma or cumulative pain symptoms and how these may be prevented, but if you identify a curly situation, you can always call the Victual hotline for some extra advice.