Owner of an ice cream franchise wonders how to reduce the WCB impacts of poor ergonomics
(Q) I’m a franchisee of a very popular ice cream chain who’s dealing with multiple WCB claims. Business is booming during this heat wave, but it’s causing other problems. My workers are in their teens and early twenties, but still they suffer back sprains, wrist injuries and shoulder pain that trigger time-loss claims. Any suggestions to prevent injury?
(A) Scooping out hard ice cream is a workplace hazard according to an Appeals Commission who has indeed awarded benefits to ice cream servers with injured shoulders. In one worker’s case, the tribunal concluded that two months of scooping led to a painful flare-up of an old rotator-cuff condition, with surgery required to repair it. The worker’s claim for compensation was originally denied by WCB, which then led to her successful appeal.
So there’s little doubt that scooping ice cream is a strenuous, repetitive activity. The design of most ice cream parlors necessitates a much different range of motion than spooning out dessert on a kitchen countertop. Workers are required to generate force at arm’s length while reaching down into a deep cabinet and torqueing the trunk and torso. It’s an all-around bad scene.
Mitigating the impacts
In fact, injury often results from seemingly innocuous tasks because of bad ergonomic design. The solutions can be quite simple, and in your case, I might suggest raising the tubs of ice cream inside the coolers to a higher level. This would at least reduce strain on the lumbar spine if nothing else.
Also, ensure that workers are rotated through different stations every other hour to mitigate repetition. In other words, your workers should take turns manning the cash register, making waffles/cones, washing and cleaning, replacing tubs, etc. If alternating tasks throughout the shift is more challenging than I imagine, be sure to incorporate several rest breaks. Have the workers stretch during breaks or perform simple exercises to help prevent muscles and tendons from becoming tense or strained.
Switch to soft(er)-serve?
One final suggestion that may not please your customers, but would certainly cut down on WCB claims: allow the temps to rise marginally in your coolers — still below freezing obviously — but adjusted sufficiently to allow for easier scooping of softer ice cream. You’re also well-advised to tap Mother Corp for ergonomic ideas.