The number-one cause of disabling work injuries is overexertion involving outside sources, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Overexertion includes injury from activities like lifting, pushing, pulling, holding, carrying, and throwing. These injuries cost businesses $14.2 billion each year and account for more than 25 percent of the overall national burden. In addition, these injuries lead to billions of dollars in lost time, medical and insurance costs, and workers’ compensation claims, not to the mention pain and suffering borne by workers.
Prevention of these injuries has posed a significant workplace safety challenge for many years. Affected industries include transportation, distribution, construction, mining, healthcare, food service, hospitality, grocery, retail, and others.
Four out of five overexertion injuries occur in the lower back, a Bureau of Labor Statistics survey showed. Three out of four such injuries happen while workers are lifting.
Unfortunately, little progress has been made over the years in reducing back injury rates, aside from efforts like worker awareness, training programs, and ergonomic improvements.
Spellbound was approached by a number of grocery and distribution business leaders who were looking for innovative, conceptual solutions to reduce back injuries that could also help maintain and improve workers’ health.
Develop a simple, yet effective, approach to minimizing back injuries, taking into account the diverse nature of the workplace and the many language barriers that exist among workers and management.
After gaining an understanding of the market, the initial brainstorming and ideation phase focused on determining what the end user needed and could easily implement. End users worked in different environments ranging from those that offered substantial employee training and ergonomic tools, to those that gave little thought to training and ergonomics.
Feedback and brainstorming sessions provided a huge reservoir of ideas. Some were feasible, others not. Final conceptual product designs and visual identities focused on what end users and their organizations needed and could actually use. The most promising concepts focused on developing a warning device to alert workers whenever they placed their body in a hazardous position — before an injury could potentially occur.
One example of our most promising ideas was lightweight, personal warning device dubbed the “Alert Badger.” Effective and easy to use, the Alert Badger is an actual badge worn during work hours that contains an inclinometer, or “tilt transducer,” to measure an employee’s horizontal angle and vertical posture deviations.
The tilt transducer responds to small changes of slope by emitting a signal whenever the tilt range changes too much. If a worker bends over into the lifting “danger zone,” the transducer activates a signal, triggering a tiny audio-alert in the badge that warns the worker to get out of the “danger zone”—in real time. To safely continue lifting, the worker adjusts to a healthier posture in a less dangerous zone.