10 Tips for Effective Ergonomics

May 17, 2010

Good ergonomic design is the solution to prevent musculoskeletal injuries.

Ergonomics helps employers design jobs or workplaces to match workers' capabilities and limitations.

Making adjustments to protect workers need not be costly, difficult or frustrating. Here are ten tips employers can use to protect their workers and their company's bottom line:

  1. Educate and involve employees

    Employees are the real experts when it comes to their jobs. They are often the best source for pointing out problems. Chances are they have a solution to offer as well. Educating employees on ergonomics helps them to offer more meaningful suggestions and feel that they are a part of the solution. Keep employees involved for more meaningful results.

  2. Take a look at all of the available data to find problems

    Use your workers' compensation claims data, OSHA 300 logs, safety committee meeting minutes, absenteeism and turnover records, employee suggestions and any other data you have available to identify where the biggest problems are. Follow this up by observing the jobs and talking to the employees and supervisors about the problems.

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  3. Encourage early reporting of problems

    If employees feel comfortable about coming forward with symptoms of injury early on, you have an opportunity to take care of the problem before it results in a workers' compensation claim. The net result is less pain and suffering for the employee and considerable cost savings for the employer.

  4. Find quick fixes to get momentum going

    Don't get caught up in "analysis paralysis." It's easy with ergonomics to start looking at every little task and movement. Sometimes there are simple solutions that could be implemented quickly, with little analysis, like rearranging a storage area to reduce lifting, or raising a countertop to reduce bending. Putting these solutions into place will generate enthusiasm by demonstrating to employees, supervisors and management how effective and simple ergonomics can be.

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  5. Some problems are more complex than others

    For some work environment problems, a careful analysis is in order. By keeping your options open at this stage, you often can find alternative solutions to the problem that you would have missed if you had moved too quickly.

  6. Focus on effective solutions.

    Too often, businesses focus only on solutions like training employees and rotating them in and out of hazardous jobs as a fix. Training in proper work practices is an important part of ergonomics and should accompany any new equipment or procedures that are implemented. But training alone isn’t very effective in reducing injuries. Changes to work practices and equipment often can eliminate or substantially reduce the risk factors for injury.

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  7. Don't just throw money and equipment at the problem

    Purchasing equipment, such as a hoist, is often a very good solution to an ergonomics problem. However, changing the way something is done, such as eliminating the need to lift, is often the most effective way to prevent injury.

  8. Make ergonomics part of purchasing and planning

    By taking advantage of opportunities to make changes during the planning stage, you may be able to reduce your equipment and facilities costs. Any equipment with an obvious problem should be replaced quickly with something designed to eliminate or reduce the problem. Then, make sure that any old equipment that wears out is replaced with ergonomically designed equipment, where appropriate.

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  9. Expect results, but be patient

    Ergonomics tools and practices keep workers healthy and increase productivity, quality and employee morale. However, you shouldn't be discouraged if these results are not immediate. The important thing is to consider all of the benefits when calculating your return, not just reduced claims costs.

  10. Ask for help

    Ergonomics isn't rocket science; most problems can be solved using in-house expertise. However, there will always be a few problems that will be easier to solve with a little help from someone with more experience. The Department of Labor & Industries offers free workshops and consultations in ergonomics to employers.
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