By Mr. Anthony J Ricchiazzi (CECOM)February 15, 2018
Pennsylvania's largest industrial employer takes a scientific approach to eliminating workplace injuries.
Tobyhanna Army Depot partnered with an ergonomics expert nearly 20 years ago to study people in their working environment. The subsequent changes have had positive results on productivity and quality of life. Ergonomics is the study of how equipment and furniture can be arranged so that personnel can do work or other activities more efficiently and comfortably.
Joe O'Malley, ergonomics specialist, teaches employees how to adjust work stations and areas to minimize stress. In some instances, he recommends physical conditioning such as weightlifting and stretching.
Mission areas are inspected frequently according to a schedule developed by safety specialists here. Supervisors in cost centers not covered by the established timetable are authorized to request a work area assessment through the Safety and Occupational Health Office (SOHO), according to Jim Wisnewski, office chief. Wisnewski pointed out that O'Malley conducts hundreds of assessments annually.
"Last year, Joe conducted 224 assessments and made 360 recommendations. Of those recommendations, 303 have been completed and closed," said Wisnewski. "So far this year, 77 onsite assessments have been conducted with 86 recommendations."
The worker conditioning and injury prevention training programs educate employees on how to maximize their strength, flexibility and cardiovascular fitness for improved physical work performance. Individual programs are created based on an employees' job description and physical abilities. Dane Kozlecvar, a certified trainer, works with employees to choose the best exercises that will improve their physical condition to avoid injury.
"I think one of the most important contributions is that we make recommendations tailored to each individual worker to perform their job duties in a more ergonomically correct position or posture; this in turn provides a safer work environment," O'Malley said. "The program is conducted on an ongoing, routine basis for anticipating, pinpointing, investigating, and controlling work-related musculoskeletal disorders and hazards."
There are 43 personnel participating in the depot-sanctioned ergonomics program. Wisnewski noted there are job order numbers to account for employee time and this program is also initiated by supervisor request through the SOHO.
"Employees have shown remarkable strides in improving their overall health," said Marilouise Yermal, safety and occupational health specialist. "Many employees participating regularly over an average of eight to 12 weeks have shown significant weight loss, 10 to 15 pounds, lower blood pressure and better dexterity."
O'Malley also demonstrates proper lifting techniques and stretching routines during the quarterly Supervisor Safety Council, Safety Star Point meetings, and New Employee Orientation.
Introducing ergonomics to the way Tobyhanna does business has helped keep our TCI (Total Case Incidents) and DART (Days Away, Restricted, Transfer) rates below the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) target, according to Wisnewski. To remain a Voluntary Protection Program (VPP) Star Site, our rates must be below the industry average. Last year the depot finished with a rate of 1.39, well below the industry rate of 2.6.
Safety personnel work closely with O'Malley to review any new work processes that require physical labor. This will ensure procedures associated with the task have been evaluated ergonomically to prevent injury, according to Yermal. In addition, follow-up reviews of on-the-job injuries have proven instrumental in the depot's prevention efforts. Procedural changes can be made based on the recommendations of the ergonomics specialist.
"Some supervisors see the benefit of the program and enroll their employees regularly, but other supervisors are concerned about the impact on their production and budgets," Wisnewski said. "I want to assure everyone: this program is here to benefit the mission employees to enhance their physical abilities to allow them to perform their job tasks better and avoid injury."
Amy Marsh, an electronics technician in the C4ISR Directorate, said she trusted the guidance provided to her during her time in the worker conditioning program.
"I also appreciated the flexibility given to participants to choose how to break up the two hours per week based on our needs and schedule," she said.
Facilities Maintenance Branch Chief Robert Lange has enrolled a number of employees in the same program.
"I believe it serves Tobyhanna Army Depot and the employees well," he said. "As employees go through the program I've observed that their state of mind is positive and they have more energy."
Tobyhanna Army Depot is a recognized leader in providing world-class logistics support for command, control, communications, computers, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance systems across the Department of Defense. Tobyhanna's Corporate Philosophy, dedicated work force and electronics expertise ensure the depot is the Joint C4ISR provider of choice for all branches of the Armed Forces and industry partners.
Tobyhanna's unparalleled capabilities include full-spectrum logistics support for sustainment, overhaul and repair, fabrication and manufacturing, engineering design and development, systems integration, post production software support, technology insertion, modification, foreign military sales and global field support to our Joint Warfighters.
About 3,200 personnel are employed at Tobyhanna, which is located in the Pocono Mountains of northeastern Pennsylvania. Tobyhanna Army Depot is part of the U.S. Army Communications-Electronics Command. Headquartered at Aberdeen Proving Ground, Maryland, the command's mission is to research, develop, acquire, field and sustain communications, command, control computer, intelligence, electronic warfare and sensors capabilities for the Armed Forces.