Tiny stick-on dots cover an outline of the human body traced on a 7 foot piece of brown kraft paper. Janice Klenot keeps these as a reminder of the pain and suffering her co-workers experience from work-related injuries. More than a piece of paper though, these body maps were among the first steps Klenot took to help raise awareness and address the issue of musculoskeletal injuries (MSI) in her workplace.
Klenot, a member of the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Local 175 and a Workers Centre-qualified instructor, likes to see results. She’s worked for close to 25 years at a cookie manufacturing plant in Kitchener.
As worker co-chair of the joint health and safety committee for almost 15 years, Klenot knew from injury reports and compensation claims that many in the plant were suffering from musculoskeletal injuries. At an Ontario Federation of Labour training session, she learned about body mapping and realized how she could use it in her workplace to both raise awareness of MSI and encourage preventative measures. “We have three shifts in our facility. Because of that it’s difficult to get information to everyone and even more difficult for co-workers to speak to each other about their experiences.” Klenot took information from injury reports and compensation claims and by shift plotted it on a body map.
She then shared this with the rest of the joint committee and eventually posted it in the cafeteria for everyone to see. The process helped the joint committee and a separate workplace ergonomics committee prioritize high risk areas. More importantly though she says workers no longer suffered in silence and had discussions with co-workers and supervisors that led to positive changes in their workstations.
While the process helped identify problems she says workers themselves are best suited to addressing solutions. “Workers will always have good practical solutions to health and safety problems. You only have to walk through the plant to see that many have already tried to redesign their workstations.”
From this process ergonomic stands and chairs have been introduced and workstations and jobs redesigned to prevent awkward postures for those who package cookies. Others who had to routinely lift 30 lb boxes of chocolate chips were suffering with back and shoulder injuries. Now, the chips come in large quantities and are automatically fed into the mixers. Bags of sugar have also been reduced in weight.
One year after the first body maps were done Klenot updated them to capture any changes in injury trends. This exercise further informed the joint committee’s efforts to modify jobs as needed.
Klenot also provides health and safety orientation to summer students at the plant and also gives a grounding in health and safety to new stewards of her Local.
Klenot’s contributions are well known and respected says UFCW Local 175 & 633 president Wayne Hanley, “You can always call upon Janice to help other Union members when it comes to health and safety. Janice has always been willing to travel anywhere we needed her to assist and instruct health and safety classes, always willing to give up her time so as to help make sure our members could learn how to protect themselves.”