Musculoskeletal disorders account for around two thirds of nonfatal workers' compensation claims in Queensland. Of these, two thirds are a result of hazardous manual tasks. The claim rate in the manufacturing industry is more than double Queensland's average of 40.7 per 1000 workers.
To help minimise musculoskeletal disorders, Workplace Health and Safety Queensland introduced the Participative Ergonomics for Manual Tasks (PErforM) program. PErforM provides a framework to help employers engage at all levels to identify, assess and control manual tasks risks within their workplace. It is a simplified manual task risk management program that involves workplace-based teams devising solutions for their high risk manual tasks1.
Two manufacturing employers who have benefitted from the PErforM program and improved risk management of their hazardous manual tasks are:
- Monarch Building Systems PTY LTD, providers of offsite manufactured building systems, and
- Sun Metals Corporation PTY LTD.
Monarch Building Systems PTY LTD
Monarch Building Systems (Monarch) worked closely with Workplace Health and Safety Queensland as part of a campaign to increase awareness of hazards in metal fabrication workplaces, particularly those associated with manual handling tasks. Monarch then engaged with their operators to support and train them in the PErforM process resulting in the implementation of various changes within their workplace to minimise manual task risks.
Monarch found that gaining staff input into the design of the solution helped team members see the value of investing in safety. After Monarch identified hazardous manual tasks as the most significant hazard in their workplace, and implemented the PErforM program, they incurred no lost time injuries over a twelve month period.
Sun Metals Corporation PTY LTD
Sun Metals, a Townsville zinc refinery, asked their teams to conduct PErforM risk assessments in their immediate work area. As a result Sun Metals:
- identified and developed controls for more than 30 hazardous manual tasks
- reduced the company's claims frequency and costs, and
- saved 30 per cent in the first year on their workers' compensation insurance premium, a saving of several hundred thousand dollars.
According to Mr John Mahoney, Superintendent for Health and Safety at Sun Metals, the PErforM program has shown how simple the hazardous manual task controls can be when workers are the people who perform the risk assessment.
'Typically, the solutions and controls are simple and cost effective, and importantly the workers take ownership of the solutions and ensuring controls are implemented,' Mr Mahoney said. 'What we are seeing now are work groups dynamically assessing risks and coming up with solutions straight away. A participative ergonomics program such as PErforM, is a must within any organisation as part of their management system.'
The PErforM program is available to all Queensland workplaces to assist in identifying risks and solutions associated with manual tasks.
For more information and available resources visit the Workplace Queensland website.