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October 21, 2002

PWPipe in Tacoma to receive 'Ergonomics in Action' award

TUMWATER - PWPipe, a Tacoma maker of PVC pipe, will receive a Department of Labor & Industries "Ergonomics in Action" award Friday, Oct. 25.

The award will be presented in a 10 a.m. ceremony at the plant, 2330 Port of Tacoma Road. L&I Assistant Director Michael Silverstein will present the award to the Tacoma plant's management team and to Vice President of Operations Jack Cobb from the company's headquarters in Eugene, Ore.

PWPipe, which employs 65 at its Port of Tacoma plant, is being recognized because of its strong commitment to ergonomics and because it actively involves employees in the process. With the help of its employees, the company has been able to develop creative and often low-cost solutions to problems that might otherwise have resulted in musculoskeletal injuries such as sprains, strains, muscle tears and back problems. The company's emphasis on ergonomics has resulted in no musculoskeletal injuries for 2- years.

"Not only does ergonomics prevent on-the-job injuries, but it has other benefits for us at PWPipe," said Cobb. "It helps develop a sense of teamwork, it leads to low employee turnover, and it improves productivity."

L&I's "Ergonomics in Action" award recognizes individuals, employers and organizations that have demonstrated extraordinary commitment, leadership or innovation in preventing work-related musculoskeletal disorders. Each year, those disorders affect more than 50,000 Washington workers. The injuries cost the state's workers' compensation system, administered by L&I, more than $411 million a year in medical treatment and partial wage-replacement payments.

PWPipe is the second award recipient. Precor Inc. of Woodinville received the first "Ergonomics in Action" award in September.

Employees and managers at PWPipe are credited with finding ways to reduce risk factors, such as awkward postures and lifting - common causes of musculoskeletal injuries. Examples include:

  • Using scissor lifts to raise pallets to avoid awkward lifts.

  • Designing special carts to move equipment and materials around to reduce lifting and carrying.

  • Designing a handle adaptation for scoops that reduces wrist bending and grip force.

  • Automating tasks that involve lifting, awkward postures, repetitive motions and hand force, while still keeping workers involved in production.

  • Adapting a winch so that it can be used to move heavy pieces of equipment during maintenance.

The state's ergonomics rule requires employers to protect their employees from musculoskeletal injuries. The rule took effect July 1 for approximately 600 large companies in industries with the highest risk of musculoskeletal injuries. The rule will phase in for other employers over the next four years. Enforcement by L&I will be phased in beginning July 1, 2004. PWPipe is not required to comply with the regulation until 2003.

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Note to editors: For a plant tour or coverage of the awards event, contact Mike Melampy of PWPipe at 253-627-1555, ext. 25. For interviews with L&I ergonomics experts, contact Steve Pierce (piet235@LNI.wa.gov), L&I Public Affairs, 360-902-5405. Resource material is available at www.LNI.wa.gov/wisha/ergo.

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