Early Intervention

  • One of the main aims of designing effective, safe work systems and processes is to avoid the development of musculoskeletal injuries or discomfort associated with work.
  • Should discomfort arise, early intervention to address health, safety or comfort concerns in the office environment is vital to ensuring the best chance at resolution and can only be achieved through effective communication between all parties.
  • The Posture checklist section of this document will help identify the limitations in the workplace that may be contributing to these concerns.

Supervisor Responsibilities

Below are some of the main responsibilities of supervisors in relation to working to prevent musculoskeletal injuries in the work place.

Staff induction and training

Computer users should be trained to adjust equipment and furniture appropriately and learn appropriate keying/data entry techniques if this is the main requirement of their role.

Customer relation skills training such as ‘handling difficult people’ should also be considered for those staff in high demand phone and face to face roles to assist in the reduction of physical and psychological tension often associated with these interactions.

Office ergonomics training sessions are routinely scheduled for all staff through Staff Support and Development. Contact: Staff Development Office extension 14218 for training date information.

Other Occupational Health and Safety related training enquiries can be directed to OHS & Injury Management on extension 14335.

Job design

Supervisors also have responsibility for the design of the work in the positions under their control to match human capacities.

Attention needs to be given to the following factors in designing safe work;

  • Consultation with the workers regarding job design options
  • Rotation between a variety of tasks involving different muscles and joints
  • Utilise user friendly software programs
  • Plan staffing needs to cover foreseeable extremes of work pressure
  • Appropriate allocation of work during leave periods

    Expectation to accommodate workers’ reduced capacity following extended leave or injury
  • Consider rotation of tasks between employees
    Equipment provision and maintenance

Supervisors also need to ensure equipment requiring forceful use is maintained and replaced as necessary, eg hole punch, guillotine and chairs.

Some office equipment such as hole punches may require a drop of oil or lubricant occasionally. Blades may need sharpening and chairs may also need regassing.

A new staff member is employed in a busy front desk/reception role with extensive phone and keying demands.

Some options available to the supervisor to reduce risk of discomfort and injury could include;

  • Purchase of a head set for hands free talking on the phone whilst keying or writing
  • Organise relief staff to allow for adequate rest breaks
  • Offer training on dealing with customer conflict
  • Gradually extend the periods on the front desk for new staff
  • Predict busy periods and allow redirection of calls to other staff

Staff Responsibilities

  • Employees should report symptoms of discomfort early to their supervisors.
    When symptoms or concerns are identified you should contact your supervisor and if necessary complete an Occupational Illness or Incident Report Form which will be reviewed and investigated by the Risk Management Office.
  • Late intervention can increase the risk of developing chronic musculoskeletal conditions.
    Chronic conditions may lead to a person being unable to maintain their employment despite subsequent changes to the tasks.
  • Prompt action is required to control any risks.
    This is necessary to prevent further risk for the staff member or other staff performing similar tasks.
  • Extra contacts
    If inadequate action is taken the worker may wish to contact their Departmental Safety Officer, Occupational Health and Safety Committee Representative or the Risk Management Office for further advice.
  • Use safe proceedures and equipment
    Once safe procedures and equipment have been provided it is the workers’ responsibility to use these consistently. Regular review of practices and procedures needs to occur within the work group, particularly when processes change.

Working from Home Office Arrangements

WorkCover NSW provide guidance to employers in relation to their OHS needs for staff who work from home.

In making formal arrangements with staff to undertake all or part of their office based duties from the home environment, supervisors must negotiate with the staff member concerned regarding the following issues;

  • Consultation regarding needs should occur prior to the introduction of the work from home arrangements
  • Assessment of equipment needs using the RMO Posture checklist
  • Ensure equipment provided is suitable and safe
  • As there will be less supervision, it is recommended to have written agreed proceedures for agreed hours of work, methods of communication and performance monitoring

Further guidance may be obtained from the full WorkCover NSW 1996 publication "Working from Home - A guide to Occupational Health and Safety, rehabilitation and workers compensation requirements"(pdf format).