In day to day work life the potential hazards in the workplace are vast. From construction sites and moving companies to white collar offices, the potential exposure to danger is constant. Common accidents include trips, slips & falls, falls related to stairwell negotiations, missteps (e.g. off a beam, onto a nail), or lifting injuries. With regards to the latter, lifting heavy objects, fast, and/or improper technique can potentially cause an injury. Lifting injuries can either be caused by a single incidence or from cumulative events experienced in tasks such as the one requiring repetitive movement. At this moment, you bend to reach for the object and lift it up with your arms while your legs are still bent. Your back curls and the weight of the object will be lifted mostly from the muscles of your lower back, meaning you are solely using your lower back muscle to lift ~80 lbs, to which is added the weight of your upper body. Now is, in turn, you use proper kinematics to lift heavy weight, would this cause an injury? NBI’s biomechanics experts answers this question by acquiring information relating to the weight and shape of the object lifted, location of the object, physical properties of the supporting surface, age and anthropometric measurements of the person, medical conditions such as obesity, diabetes, scoliosis, and by creating a biomechanical model of forces exerted at the joints when performing a specific action.
Another important aspect to take into account in a workplace is the light available throughout the ensemble of the premises. A dark workplace will lead to a reduced visibility, thus increasing the potential for accidents. Consequently, reaction times to potential accidents will also be reduced; when noticing a potential accident, you might take an anticipatory action accordingly, however if your visibility is reduced, you will not be able to act until the latent danger is upon you. To analyze potential injuries in such scenarios, the experts at NBI consider aspects such as the space between fixtures, the height of the fixtures , the object at these fixtures and their corresponding dimensions; the width of the hallways, beams, bridges or whichever supporting surface for walking; the gyration angle of a door, machinery or hanging objects; objects in or on the floor that might cause trips or falls, the material of furniture , as well as their design (sharp edges or smooth edges). Overall, injury production analyses need to reproduce plausible scenarios by taking into account all of the aforementioned variables along with the uncertainty of reaction times and actions of individuals under reduced visibility conditions.
Moreover, accidents at construction sites can occur in multiple ways. Hazards come from diverse sources such as pieces of material being removed can be thrown into the air, electrical shortcuts can occur, failure in emergency stop mechanisms, improper clothing for operating machinery, or even from vibration of operating a heavy machine. Are these events likely to cause injuries at a workplace? What are the safety requirements at a workplace? Should a helmet be made of a specific material to avoid brain damage under a collision event? Can constant vibration make a person be at a heightened risk of a brain injury? These are difficult questions which are yet to be answered for each specific condition Hence, NBI performs extensive research on available peer-reviewed studies, reproduce distinct plausible scenarios. We assess the possibility of injuries not just due to the sole accident but previous potential conditions enhancing the potential for injury. Alongside, factors such as the design of protective gear is taken into consideration for assessing potential forces acting at the body, complementing our analyses with gear testing to reproduce damages and understand the mechanisms of potential injuries. Altogether, NBI’s approach to potential injuries at workplaces is vast, comprehensive and integrative.