Ergonomics FAQs

As a Beacon Mutual policyholder, will I be charged a fee for any ergonomic services?

No. Beacon provides all of its ergonomic services free to all current policyholders.

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As a Beacon Mutual policyholder, how do I request ergonomic services?

Employers - If your company has been assigned a loss prevention representative already, please contact them directly to request any ergonomic or other loss prevention service. If you are a new policyholder or have not previously been assigned a loss prevention representative, please call 401-825-2667 and ask to be connected to Loss Prevention.  You can request further information via the “Contact Us” form​ as well. Workers – Contact your company’s Human Resources Department.

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Who Performs Ergonomic Services?

Many Beacon Mutual policyholders have successfully implemented ergonomic programs under the watchful eye of an ergonomic specialist. Whether it is starting your workday with workplace stretches, training employees the proper techniques of lifting or setting up an office workstation, the Beacon Mutual Loss Prevention Staff of Ergonomic Specialists can help to create a healthy, comfortable and more productive workplace. The Beacon Mutual Loss Prevention Department currently staffs certified ergonomic specialists, each with the knowledge and experience, to help your business reach its operational goals.

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I have a small company. Does Beacon require a minimum number of employees for an onsite ergonomic training program?

No. Beacon Mutual provides training to any size company regardless of the number of employees. If your company is looking to train a large number of employees, our trainers may ask your company to commit up to 20-25 employees per session. Larger class sizes allow for more interaction between the trainers and attendees and reduce operational downtime while the employees are participating in the training.

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Is there a standard or regulation that limits how much weight my employees can lift?

No. There is currently no workplace standard or regulation that restricts or limits the maximum amount of weight an individual employee can lift. In 1991, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) developed a lifting equation in an attempt to assist employers with reducing the risk of lift-related musculoskeletal injuries. Visit NIOSH here.

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Should I give my material handlers back belts?

No. Though back belts keep low back muscles warm and encourage proper posture while lifting, they do not decrease the forces responsible for low back injury. They can promote a false sense of security and in general should not be considered a piece of personal protective equipment.

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Are there any standards that limit the amount of weight a worker can lift at work?

No. There are currently no standards that regulate or set maximum limits on lifting. It is up to each employer to determine what works best for the type of work performed.  NIOSH has a complex equation that can be utilized as a guide.

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Can back belts take the place of lifting training?

No. Back belts will not prevent back injuries if the person still lifts using the "rounded back" or non-neutral postures. Most people only think the belt is helping them because the belt stabilizes weak stomach muscles, making the trunk feel stronger, which gives a false impression of extra strength a.k.a. the Superman Effect. Back belts are only effective when lifting greater than 75% of the maximum weight a person can lift, and will not take the place of good lifting techniques and proper back posture.

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What is the best approach to addressing musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) in nursing staff associated with patient handling?

Although safe patient handling training has been the most frequently used approach in the past to help RNs and CNAs, the true solution lies in a step-by-step process involving a facility cultural change, customized task analyses, and utilization of safe patient handling devices. Beacon has developed guidelines for safe patient handling to address these exposures in health care facilities.

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Do back belts really work?

A considerable amount of research has been done on the effectiveness of back belts by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH).

NIOSH Back Belt Summary: “After a review of the scientific literature, NIOSH has concluded that, because of limitations of the studies that have analyzed workplace use of back belts, the results cannot be used to either support or refute the effectiveness of back belts in injury reduction. Although back belts are being bought and sold under the premise that they reduce the risk of back injury, there is insufficient scientific evidence that they actually deliver what is promised.

The Institute, therefore, does not recommend the use of back belts to prevent injuries among workers who have never been injured.* If you or your workers are wearing back belts as protective equipment against back injury, you should be aware of the lack of scientific evidence supporting their use.” Visit NIOSH​ for additional information.

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If my company already has a traditional safety program, why do we need an ergonomics program as well?

Traditional safety programs typically address acute injury events such as slips and falls, lacerations or chemical exposures. The process of ergonomics identifies and reduces risks associated with repetitive stress and overexertion. Jobs or working conditions presenting multiple risk factors will have a higher probability of causing a musculoskeletal problem. A Beacon ergonomic specialist will help identify your company’s ergonomic risks and how to best reduce or eliminate them by implementing engineering and/or administrative controls.

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If my company participates in an ergonomic workstation analysis or consultation, what can I expect as a follow up?

All loss prevention service visits including ergonomics consultations, analysis and training are followed up with a written report detailing the nature and results of the visit along with any supporting research, resources and suggestions for corrective action.

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Do all of my computer workstations need keyboard trays?

No, not necessarily. Adjustable keyboard trays allow for employees of all statures to maintain neutral posture while performing computer tasks. The goal is to keep the keypad approximately one inch below seated elbow height. For some employees desk height meets this recommendation. The adjustable keyboard tray allows all workstations to meet the recommendation.

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If I am not a current policyholder, can my company contract with Beacon Mutual to receive ergonomic services?

Yes. Beacon Mutual can “unbundle” their loss prevention services and ergonomic consultation, analysis, and training to non-policyholders for a contract fee. For more information please contact the Loss Prevention Dept. at 401-825-2731 or beaconLP@beaconmutual.com​

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Is there an Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) General Industry Ergonomics Standard?

No. OSHA does not currently have a 1910 standard for Ergonomics. Ergonomic-related issues for most industries are generally cited under the General Duty Clause. OSHA has developed some industry-specific guidelines as an outreach training tool to aid in the reduction and prevention of workplace ergonomic injuries. These voluntary guidelines are a major part of OSHA's new four-pronged approach to ergonomics. The voluntary guidelines currently in place are: Poultry Processing Industry, Shipyard Industry, Retail Grocery Industry, Nursing Home Industry, and the Meatpacking Industry. Visit OSHA’s ergonomic guidelines​for more information.

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Do all of my computer workstations need keyboard trays?

The simple answer is no, not all workstations need or can accommodate a keyboard tray. Workers who perform certain data entry tasks or those who may be very tall or short may benefit from an adjustable keyboard tray. It is important to start with a comprehensive ergonomic analysis to identify risk factors or stressors and how to best reduce a worker’s exposure through engineering or administrative controls. Just adding a tray may not be the best solution.

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Should I worry about my workers being exposed to vibration from tools or machinery?

The simple answer is yes. Vibration is considered a secondary ergonomic risk factor and has been associated with an increased risk of developing a musculoskeletal disorder (MSD) or disorders such as Hand-Arm Vibration Syndrome (HAVS). Common sources of vibration come from machines and long periods of driving due to road vibration to both the back and hands. Studies have shown occupations such as forestry workers, stone drillers, stone cutters or carvers, shipyard workers, and long haul truck drivers are at high risk for developing MSD or HAVS symptoms.

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Is there legislation in Rhode Island for safe patient handling?

Yes, as of July 1, 2008, the State of Rhode Island adopted the Safe Patient Handling Act of 2006, regulating safe patient handling in hospitals and nursing homes. The responsibility of enforcement lies with the Rhode Island Department of Health Facilities Management. Beacon can assist your facility with the key components of the Act by helping to develop written policies on the safe movement of patients, e.g., patient assessment, equipment and patient matrix. We will assist in developing and maintaining a safe patient handling committee and provide training and education to the staff using our Caregiver Training Program. For additional information on safe patient handling, please visit CDC/NIOSH – Safe Patient Movement​, OSHA Ergonomic Guidelines for Nursing Homes, and American Nurses Association – Handle with Care Campaign​.

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