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January 24, 2003

Two 'Ergonomics in Action' awards to be given in Spokane area

SPOKANE - The City of Spokane and Hearth & Home Technologies of Colville will receive "Ergonomics in Action" awards from the Department of Labor & Industries.

The award to the city will be given Feb. 10 during the 6 p.m. City Council meeting. Hearth & Home Technologies will receive its award Feb. 11 at noon in Colville. L&I Assistant Director Michael Silverstein will present both awards.

The City of Spokane, with more than 2,100 full-time employees, is being recognized for raising employee awareness of ergonomics in all 45 of its departments. Although the city has until July 1, 2004, to meet all the requirements of the state ergonomics rule, it began work early in 2001. It started by recruiting 43 "ergonomics delegates" from its staff and training them about work-related musculoskeletal hazards.

Since then, the city's extensive ergonomics program has led to innovative changes that are reducing injuries in many areas, including sewer maintenance, parking-meter collection, garbage and recycling, street maintenance, police and fire, and gardening.

Hearth & Home Technologies is receiving L&I's "Ergonomics in Action" award for redesigning workstations and work methods to reduce hazards in its Colville facility. The company's 240 employees make wood, gas and pellet stoves and fireplace inserts.

Hearth & Home trained every employee on ergonomics awareness and identification. Its manufacturing processes include rollers for moving the heavy stoves, as well as adjustable-height workstations. Also, the company has an Ergonomics Rapid Continuous Improvement approach that involves dedicating one week for problem-solving teams to focus on one workstation to identify problems and brainstorm solutions.

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.

The state's ergonomics rule requires employers to protect their employees from musculoskeletal injuries. The rule took effect last 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.

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For media information: Cheryl Moore, L&I Public Affairs, 360-902-5414 or chem235@LNI.wa.gov.

For more information about the City of Spokane and Hearth & Home, go to www.LNI.wa.gov/wisha/ergo/demoproj.htm. (Note: Hearth & Home is listed on that web site under its previous company name, Aladdin Hearth Products.)

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