Original Date: 06/26/1995
Revision Date: 01/18/2007
Best Practice : Injury Prevention Through Upper/Lower Extremity Screening
In 1993, Dayton Parts, Inc. (DPI) implemented an Upper Extremity Screening Program for all manufacturing employees. The insurance carrier for DPI indicated that its manufacturing plant activities made the company potentially subject to significant numbers of carpel tunnel syndrome and other repetitive motion disorders if action was not taken. Subsequently, a Lower Extremity Screening Program was added to the prevention program to address back and leg pain.
Work on the manufacturing plant floor at DPI requires repetitive positioning of individual steel spring leafs for the variou stages of machine forming and assembly of the completed spring set. Most workstations necessitate hand manipulation of the pieces, while stations handling hot leafs require manual tong use. Based on the insurance carrier’s information, DPI management began to address these problems to prevent excessive workman’s compensation costs and injury-related production interruptions.
The company’s management team drafted an action plan with the development of an upper extremity screening program as the key thrust. With support from an occupational therapist, a registered nurse, and the company doctor, a pilot program was developed to educate workers regarding basic anatomy and physiology of the upper extremities, screen production-floor workers, and present a treatment recommendation program for symptomatic workers.
To help launch the program, an employee with severe existing symptoms was asked to participate. He was tested, and treatment was initiated to include wrist splints and hand tool modification. Because DPI’s culture already acknowledged management’s high concern for safety, the results with this pilot employee sold the program to the rest of the manufacturing employees.
Individual upper extremity screening elements included the individual employee’s history (including past work and hobbies), a physical assessment, a questionnaire regarding symptoms, and a series of tests that assessed dexterity, feeling sensitivity, and grip strength. Employees with indicated upper extremity problems were identified and recommendations developed for individual treatment including modification of the worksite and tools, fitting for splints, job rotation and in severe cases, referral to a physician.
The success of this upper extremity screening program led to the development of a lower extremity screening program as an additional part of the injury prevention program. As before, a pilot program was initiated by working with a single employee with clear symptoms.
The upper and lower extremity screening programs have provided substantial benefits. The upper extremity screening program identified 28 employees with various levels of problems and all have been offered an appropriate level of treatment. The screening program also identified work elements most prone to result in identified problems so they can be examined.
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