Evaluating ergonomic changes for effectiveness
Date Posted: 01/18/2021
Eliminating awkward postures and repetitive motions takes some trial and error. Expect to try out a few options before making final changes. The first solution may not be the best, and there may be room for further improvement.
Begin by making a list of tasks with the highest priority. For each task, write down several potential improvements. A single change might reduce or eliminate multiple factors, or several changes might be needed to address a single factor.
After listing potential improvements, evaluate each option by asking whether the change will:
- Reduce or eliminate the risk factors and reasons for them?
- Create new or different risk factors?
- Increase or decrease productivity and efficiency?
- Handle the required volume and pace of work?
- Be affordable (is another option less expensive)?
- Positively affect worker morale?
- Take a long time to implement?
- Require substantial training (is a simpler option available)?
Finally, select a few options for testing and set up a trial period using the new tools, equipment, or procedures. Give workers time to adjust before evaluating the effectiveness. A new tool or procedure can feel awkward at first, and may require using new muscle groups or different body parts so workers initially feel tired or sore. Providing an adjustment period may prevent you from rejecting an otherwise good improvement.
After the adjustment period, evaluate each change by considering whether it:
- Had enough time to work (are workers used to the changes)?
- Reduced or eliminated fatigue, discomfort, symptoms, or injuries?
- Added any new contributing factors or other problems?
- Matched the production requirements of the job?
- Was fully implemented in a reasonable amount of time?
- Had a positive effect on absenteeism and turnover rates?
- Was supported with the training needed to make it effective?
One good evaluation step is to go back and observe the job as you did during the initial evaluation. If necessary, try a new option or begin the process again. Once the risk factors are eliminated to the extent possible, move on to the next job on your priority list. The goal is to remove conditions that could lead to injuries, which should also increase productivity, save money, and improve job satisfaction.
How Safety Management Suite Can Help
OSHA doesn’t require training workers on ergonomics, but giving employees information on how to prevent or reduce injuries is always a good idea. The Classroom Programs feature in the J. J. Keller® SAFETY MANAGEMENT SUITE provides over 100 training outlines covering topics required by OSHA and many other best-practice topics such as ergonomics and workplace violence.