Magazine article Risk Management

The Potential Downside of Quiet Productivity

Magazine article Risk Management

The Potential Downside of Quiet Productivity

Article excerpt

Having great employees has an unrecognized downside. Every organization wants to have hard-working, highly motivated employees who want to keep working and making money. But workers who "suck it up," may not be paying attention to what their bodies are telling them. They may compensate for their discomfort in one part of their body by straining another part of their body. Worse, they may intentionally ignore their problems in order to keep the work and money flowing.

Stoic employees who do not complain do not provide valuable feedback. You might not find out until years later, when serious cases of repetitive-motion injuries like carpal-tunnel syndrome and other musculoskeletal injunes start to crop up, that the workplace was ergonomically unsound. You may not know about dangerous noise levels until workers start losing their hearing. It may take years of exposure to toxic chemicals, dusts, etc. before a worker is diagnosed with silicosis, emphysema or other pulmonary disorders.

Do not take a lack of complaints to mean a lack of hidden problems. Become a workplace detective.

Do employees have to shout to make hear one another? Are they coughing frequently? Is there fine dust in the air? Are there contaminants settling on equipment? Observe workers' stations. Are they struggling to hold pieces? Are they showing any signs of discomfort such as squinting or wringing hands?

Talk to employees. Are they taking aspirin and ibuprofen to kill nagging minor pains?

Further investigation and evaluation from a professional loss control consultant may be warranted. Consider using an outsider for this. Someone promising confidentiality is more likely to elicit candid comments because good workers do not want their boss to think they are complainers.

A loss-control professional can spot potential problems fairly readily. Next, conduct industrial-hygiene testing and employ an ergonomics specialist to see if those suspicions are truly problems.

An ergonomic expert can measure and evaluate employees' workstations and observe them working. A certified industrial hygienist should measure ambient and impact noise levels using equipment such as noise-level meters and dosimeters. Standard testing equipment such as pumps and filters should be used to take air samples for airborne contaminants. …

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