The Human Factors and Ergonomics Society has designated each October as National Ergonomics Month (NEM). Ergonomics is an applied science that incorporates principles of usability into the design process with the goal of making finished products more effective and safe for people to use.
In the workplace, proper ergonomic practices can play an important role in reducing pain, injuries, loss of productivity and the resulting Worker’s Comp claims. One of the most common ailments involved in Worker’s Comp cases, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics are musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) such as low back injuries, carpal tunnel syndrome, and soft tissue damage, which can increase the risks of accidents and repetitive strain injuries. With October almost here, it’s the perfect time to consider the following tips for reducing MSDs from the Occupational Health & Safety Administration to make your workplace safer and more productive:
- Provide Management Support - A strong commitment by management is critical to the overall success of an ergonomic process. Management should define clear goals and objectives for the ergonomic process, discuss them with their workers, assign responsibilities to designated staff members, and communicate clearly with the workforce.
- Involve Workers - A participatory ergonomic approach, where workers are directly involved in worksite assessments, solution development, and implementation is the essence of a successful ergonomic process. Workers can:
- Identify and provide important information about hazards in their workplaces.
- Assist in the ergonomic process by voicing their concerns and suggestions for reducing exposure to risk factors and by evaluating the changes made as a result of an ergonomic assessment.
- Provide Training - Training is an important element in the ergonomic process. It ensures that workers are aware of ergonomics and its benefits, become informed about ergonomics related concerns in the workplace, and understand the importance of reporting early symptoms of MSDs.
- Identify Problems - An important step in the ergonomic process is to identify and assess ergonomic problems in the workplace before they result in MSDs.
- Encourage Early Reporting of MSD Symptoms - Early reporting can accelerate the job assessment and improvement process, helping to prevent or reduce the progression of symptoms, the development of serious injuries, and subsequent lost-time claims.
- Implement Solutions to Control Hazards - There are many possible solutions that can be implemented to reduce, control, or eliminate workplace MSDs.
- Evaluate Progress - Established evaluation and corrective action procedures need to be in place to periodically assess the effectiveness of the ergonomic process and to ensure its continuous improvement and long-term success. As an ergonomic process is first developing, assessments should include determining whether goals set for the ergonomic process have been met and determining the success of the implemented ergonomic solutions.
Ergonomics tools and practices can help to keep workers healthy, reduce the costs of Worker’s Comp claims, and increase productivity, quality, and employee morale. Implementation may take some time and effort, but the benefits are well worth it.