Workers from the poultry industry are no strangers to repetitive processes and forceful movements. The prevalence of demanding hand and wrist motion in poultry processing makes employees at risk of musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs). To identify and address the risk factors associated with Carpal Tunnel Syndrome in this line of work, the Health Hazard Evaluation Program (HHEP) reviewed the work processes in a Maryland-based poultry plant. Our latest blog takes a closer look at their findings and recommendations to reduce related health risks:
Highlights and Findings of the Evaluation
In 2014, the HHEP conducted ergonomic evaluations to assess the prevalence of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome among workers in one of Maryland’s poultry plants. After a series of inspections, interviews, and surveys, the team found that:
- 81 percent of the job processes had exceeded the recommended action limit of the American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists (ACGIH).
- 34 percent of the participants had Carpal Tunnel Syndrome.
- 76 percent of the participants had abnormal nerve conduction results.
The above-mentioned findings are linked to the repetitive and forceful movements of the job—along with the following safety and occupational concerns:
- The plant did not have regular job rotation schedules.
- To use sharpeners, employees needed to reach above their shoulders.
- Most of the workstations did not have adjustable platforms.
- Even if platforms were available, they were not set or adjusted at the appropriate height or position.
- Employees also expressed concern over the sharpness of knives and scissors. Moreover, knives were only changed during the lunch period, not as needed.
- Aprons were too long for some employees—boots were too heavy or too tall as well.
- Unless the employees worked for more than eight hours and 15 minutes, workers only had two scheduled rest breaks.
Recommendations to Mitigate Risk
Increasing and prolonged exposure to repetition or force have long been associated with MSDs. This is especially the case for members of the poultry industry. Based on the hierarchy of controls, the study recommended several process improvements and action items to address or mitigate the risk of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome. Across many industries, processes can be improved in similar ways. What improvements do you see below that can be incorporated into a safer workplace at your company?
- If feasible, automate or semi-automate processes to reduce repetitive motions.
- Ensure that adjustable platforms are available at every workstation.
- Place sharpeners in such a way that workers won’t need to reach above their shoulders.
- To lower the risk of developing MSDs, make sure that job tasks are below the threshold limits recommended by the ACGIH for repetitive motion and lifting.
- Follow OSHA’s poultry processing guidelines to prevent MSDs.
- Create a job rotation schedule so that employees can work on high and low-risk jobs alternately.
- Sharpen and change tools on a regular basis to keep in optimal condition.
- Add more breaks so that continuous work are limited to less than two hours.
- Encourage workers to report symptoms of MSDs immediately.
- Provide safety reminders and handouts that are easy to comprehend.
- Enhance recordkeeping and make sure that all injury and illness information are complete and accurate.
To be one step ahead of occupational illnesses and disorders, general industry workers must have a solid understanding of safety and compliance essentials. 360training.com’s OSHA 10 General Industry Training can help you learn the basics in just a matter of clicks!