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Tuesday, Oct. 6, 2009

JGI Area Safety Leaders Can Reduce Ergo Injuries

JGI safetyWhen the Production Genomics Facility at the Joint Genome Institute (JGI) was struck by its 13th ergonomic injury in 2008, management knew it was time to stop work. After getting feedback from JGI employees, they determined that their ergonomic problems were due to being “reactive and not proactive in their approach to safety,” says Vito Mangiardi, JGI Deputy Director of Business Operations, Production, and Informatics.

They also learned that a number of employees felt disconnected from management. To facilitate communication between management and staff, the JGI launched a campaign designed to cultivate a proactive safety culture that would be part of employees’ day-to-day activities. As part of the new program, the JGI chose 33 staff across the facility to be Area Safety Leaders (ASLs). The ASLs, who focus mainly on laboratory safety, work closely with the JGI Safety Team, consisting of Mangiardi, JGI Safety Coordinator Stephen Franaszek (right) and Assistant Safety Coordinator Cheryl Chu (center), and the JGI Safety Culture Group to liaise between line management and staff. ASLs were charged with observing the daily ergonomic habits of the 250 employees scattered across the 80,000 square foot JGI campus. They met regularly with management to discuss lab safety issues.

Because most of the JGI’s injuries have resulted from poor production-line ergonomics, ASLs work closely with an ergonomist to make sure employees follow required ergonomic practices such as keeping their postures neutral and limiting repetitive wrist, hand and arm motions. Together, they also monitor employees’ ergonomic performance through Ergo Points, an assessment tool that works much like Weight Watchers’ points calculator by tracking whether a worker has exceeded his or her daily quota for a repetitive motion such as plating or pipetting. If they find that an employee’s workday consisted only of plating for eight hours straight, for example, an ASL and ergonomist would contact him or her immediately about diversifying his or her tasks and taking ergonomic breaks.

Nearly a year later, the ASLs’ collaboration with the JGI Safety Team, Safety Culture Group and ergonomist has resulted in just two ergonomic injuries in fiscal year 2009, a nearly 80-percent reduction from 2008. Mangiardi attributes the reduced number of injuries to the cooperation of JGI staff: “At the JGI, everyone wants to help, and the staff is extremely receptive to creating an effective safety environment.”

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