Allan G. Pearson, owner of Maintenance Plus in Minot, added on to his building in the past year; and knew some changes needed to be made to further improve his employees' safety.
"We knew we needed more shelving, to get things up off the floor and organized," Pearson said. "Not having shelves wasn't going to work because having things around meant trip or slip hazards, or lifting injuries as people try to lift over things or walk through things with a load."
"We also needed good access to that shelving, and a ramp for the vans so employees didn't have to lift heavy equipment up into the vans," he added.
Katina Tengesdal/MDN - - Allan G. Pearson, owner of Maintenance Plus in Minot, demonstrates how a ramp makes loading heavy objects into the van easier.
Pearson looked into the Workforce Safety and Insurance's Ergonomic Initiative program and Ergonomic Grant program. The initiative program would connect Pearson with an approved vendor to do an ergonomic assessment of his business, while the grant would provide 75 percent of the cost of any equipment recommended during the assessment.
Pearson was connected with First Choice Physical Therapy in Minot for an ergonomic assessment.
Reed Argent, physical therapist with First Choice, explained that during an assessment therapists are checking for workers' postures, the amount of force workers are exerting to lift objects, and the repetition of their tasks.
Typical ergonomics-related injuries include low back strain, shoulder issues, carpal tunnel syndrome and other cumulative trauma disorders. According to North Dakota Workforce Safety and Insurance, 30 to 35 percent of all claims are due to ergonomics-related injuries.
"The first thing we're looking for during an assessment is postures," said Karen Rasmusson, physical therapist for First Choice. "If you see people bent over working, or leaning over at their computer, then you have a problem. You want them to have more neutral postures."
"When we go to some businesses, we'll notice them doing something like lifting things from the floor, and that's heavy," Argent added. "If you ask them why they do it that way, they'll say it's because they have always done it that way. If you can raise things off the floor a bit, that makes a big difference ergonomically."
During the assessment at Maintenance Plus, First Choice Physical therapists' recommendations included raising workspace countertops, adding more shelving for organization and safety, getting a ramp for lifting heavy objects into the vans and using rolling stairways to access items on the shelves. An assessment of the office revealed that platforms for computer monitors could be ergonomically beneficial.
"Often, you're so busy doing the job that you don't stop to think about how you're doing it," Pearson said. "It's nice to have that third party come in and make corrections."
The corrections that physical therapists recommend don't just include equipment recommendations. They also include work practice changes and administration changes.
"An administration change could be having other employees trained on a task so the employer can do a rotation, and one person isn't experiencing the exact same strain over and over," Rasmusson said.
After the assessment, Pearson went through the grant program process to acquire the recommended equipment. He feels the changes to his business will be beneficial in the long run.
"The employees do like it better," Pearson said. "It's easier to find things, and they like the rolling stairs versus the heavy ladders. It's also easier to load things into the van. If you make it easier for employees, they will use it. What we have here is accessible and user friendly."
"If somebody does get hurt, that puts a load on everybody and costs money," he added. "It's just better to be proactive about preventing injury."