What do you think of when you hear the word “ergonomics”? You might imagine heavy lifting or adjusting an office chair. Ergonomics is more comprehensive and is a critical part of worker safety. Ergonomics, or “fitting the job to the worker,” touches all business sectors, including manufacturing, construction, and healthcare. The International Ergonomics Association defines ergonomics as an “understanding of interactions among humans and other elements of a system.” Good ergonomics means maximizing human well-being and organizational performance.
Why is it Important to Involve Workers in Ergonomics?
Involving workers in ergonomics programs helps organizations improve worker safety and business productivity with practical, effective, and accepted solutions. Ergonomics is complex and requires an in-depth understanding of job processes. We must involve workers to tap into this specific knowledge. There are benefits to engaging workers. Workers who are involved have higher job satisfaction and learn more about the overall work within an organization. Being involved in an ergonomics program helps employees demonstrate leadership and obtain a well-rounded view of organizational processes. Here are three ways to include workers in your ergonomics program today:
1. Consult with Workers
One of the most effective ways to involve workers in your ergonomics program is to consult with them. Consulting with workers can be done formally or informally. The key is to promote a regular discussion of ergonomic issues and ideas. For example, organizations can include ergonomics during safety meetings, focusing on a specific ergonomic topic or issue. During the meetings, the group can identify ergonomic risks and brainstorm ways to improve a process. Another way to consult with workers is to include ergonomics as a standing topic during other daily or weekly meetings. For example, a manufacturing team can use their standing weekly meeting to identify and control potential ergonomic hazards for upcoming processes in the following week. If a process calls for heavy lifting, the group can make plans to use equipment or job rotation to reduce the risk. Organizations should ask workers for ideas, suggestions, and feedback about the ergonomics program and training.
2. Involve Workers in Ergonomic Projects
It is critical to directly involve workers and end-users in ergonomic projects and facility designs to reduce mistakes, increase acceptance, and spark ideas. Businesses can avoid costly mistakes by listening to worker feedback and suggestions for how to reduce ergonomic risk. Imagine a grocery store that is designing a check-out counter. The designers might focus on reducing ergonomic risk with a hand motion, such as using the scanner. Imagine that the store includes workers in the design process, finding that workers are also concerned due to discomfort in their legs and back. Now, the designers can address the issue by adjusting the workstation height and building in footrests. Without direct worker involvement, this issue could have gone unnoticed and caused an injury in the future.
3. Create an Ergonomic Improvement Team
One of the best ways to foster engagement and improve projects is to create an ergonomic improvement team. Ergonomic improvement teams are made up of worker groups from different areas and levels throughout the organization. The teams identify and prioritize ergonomic issues and perform risk assessments. The group should be facilitated and trained by an ergonomics or human factors practitioner. After an assessment, the teams make recommendations and follow up on process improvements. The teams improve safety and productivity at the same time by involving workers from different areas to enhance the process.
Involving workers in an ergonomics program benefits the organization and the worker in several ways. Organizations that include workers in ergonomics programs identify and control ergonomic risks, making the business safer and more productive. Workers who are involved have better morale and are more likely to buy into the ergonomics program and solutions. By consulting with workers, involving them in ergonomic projects, and creating ergonomic improvement teams, organizations can see measurable changes and improvements in safety, productivity, and quality.
It is crucial to ensure that your organization has expertise in ergonomics and human factors to drive the ergonomics program and champion employee engagement. Accredited certifications, such as the Occupational Hygiene and Safety Technician® (OHST®) and the Safety Trained Supervisor® (STS®) from the Board of Certified Safety Professionals (BCSP), demonstrate both competency and credibility in several occupational safety and health domains, including ergonomics.