Health Center researchers are embarking on a three-year ergonomic and health promotion study with Pratt & Whitney, a United Technologies Corp. company based in East Hartford.
The effort will help improve the workplace for Pratt & Whitney employees and provide information for quality of life improvements at companies nationwide.
The research will take place at three units in Pratt & Whitney’s Global Service Partners network: Cheshire Engine Center, Connecticut Airfoil Repair Operations, and East Hartford Repair Operations.
The study is funded through a five-year, $5 million grant from the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health. The grant helped create the Center for Promoting Health in the New England Workplace, one of three national WorkLife Centers of Excellence.
The Pratt & Whitney study is one of the Center’s major research projects.
Pratt & Whitney employees design, manufacture, and service aircraft engines, space propulsion systems, and industrial gas turbines. Researchers will gather data and provide recommendations to reduce the potential for employee injuries, while improving overall employee health.
“Pratt & Whitney’s participatory ergonomics program provides a fertile environment for programs that can add significantly to the national effort to improve quality of life in the workplace and health care,” says principal investigator Dr. Martin Cherniack, director of the Health Center’s Ergonomic Technology Center.
The study will include extensive economic analyses to evaluate both actual health care burden and the avoided costs associated with preventive interventions.
| Employees at Pratt & Whitney in East Hartford walk for fitness. File photo by Peter Morenus
The research involves a comparison of two different approaches at two separate sites: one is a “best practices” program reflecting current state-of-the-art approaches; the other is a “participatory” program, where health interventions come out of a joint labor-management design team. The information gathered is intended to help prevent on-the-job injuries and illnesses.
Nearly 4,000 Connecticut workers reported a job-related illness in 2006. Another report by Health Center researchers said the overall illness rate in Connecticut of 27.7 per 10,000 workers was higher than the national average of 24.6 per 10,000, driven by Connecticut’s higher rates of hearing loss and repetitive trauma injuries.
Workers in the manufacturing sector reported the highest number of occupational illnesses.
“Occupational injuries and disease can have major impacts on worker health, productivity, and employer costs,” says Nicholas Warren, an occupational and environmental expert at the Health Center. “Prevention efforts can reduce both diseases and costs because, in theory at least, all occupational diseases are preventable.”
Nancy Hitchins, environment health and safety manager for Pratt & Whitney Global Service Partners, says, “Launching this ‘first in the nation’ research-to-practice program at Pratt & Whitney is an acknowledgement of the company’s history of innovation in workplace health and safety and in labor-management cooperation.”