Employers can reduce the costs of occupational musculoskeletal disorders by using a free online risk management tool created by ergonomic researchers at KTH Royal Institute of Technology in Sweden.
KTH lecturer Linda Rose says the tool enables assessment and management of ergonomic hazards that employees face when engaged in what is referred to in industry as “manual handling”, or the moving or supporting of loads by hand or bodily force. Examples of manual handling include picking or packing, feeding material into a machine or pushing load carriers.
Rose and graduation student Carl Lind developed the tool, titled RAMP (Risk Assessment and Management Tool for Manual Action Proactively), with the aim of reducing musculoskeletal injuries and, thereby, the costs that injuries impose on society and businesses every year in the form of sick leave as well as lack of quality. According to the European Agency for Safety and Health at Work, the cost of work-related upper body musculoskeletal disorders amounts to somewhere between 0.5% and 2% of Gross National Product.
The tool is made up of modules for assessment and management of ergonomic hazards in manual handling jobs. “RAMP supports working systematically to reduce musculoskeletal injuries and provides a foundation to make fact-based decisions,” Rose says.
The way it is used begins with observation, for example, by studying postures and movements; and by measurements of compressive and tensile forces. Interviews are also conducted with employees and their work is ideally documented with film and photography.
An assessment of various risk factors for a specific case is fed into the digital RAMP tool. The results are presented using a three color-coded risk and priority level for all the risk factors assessed, from green, signaling a low risk; to red, which signals a high risk for the vast majority of workers and that mitigating measures should be given high priority.
“You can also get an overview of where in a facility the risks are and what the risk factors are,” Rose says. “It is possible to combine the results of several surveys and view the results of the risk assessment from a single workstation or a department, up to an entire group. RAMP also provides structured support for the development of both action plans and risk mitigation measures to tackle musculoskeletal disorders.”
Unlike some other risk assessment tools, RAMP is available online for free.
RAMP was developed in Sweden in close collaboration between researchers at KTH and the four participating companies, Arla Foods, Scania, Swedish Butikskött and Loods Åkeri. The cooperation was part of a research and development project, which was mainly funded by AFA Försäkring and the participating companies.