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Having an Impact with Ergonomics

- May 11, 2019 by Brian Piñon, CSP (View all posts by Brian)

Recently, a colleague asked me what safety topic I am most passionate about and without hesitation I answered ergonomics. Applying ergonomic training and controls can provide a unique opportunity to see an immediate and tangible impact on an individual’s well-being; not to mention a lagging impact on an organization’s profitability.

At the onset of my career in safety I took a two day course in conducting ergonomic evaluations for office workstations. Shortly thereafter, when given the opportunity to do 30 evaluations for one of my clients, I was shocked to find out how many employees reported routine discomfort or pain after a long day sitting at their desk. It was incredibly rewarding to be able to help them adjust their workstation and see it click in their minds that they don’t have to end every work day suffering in silence.

Whenever I conduct ergonomics training, I start by asking the group if they typically have discomfort at their workstation. I’ve seen up to half the room raise their hands!

How many of your workers are uncomfortable in their workspace because it hasn’t been properly adjusted to their body? How many of these workers are at risk of developing a painful and costly musculoskeletal disorder? Here are some tips for implementing your own ergonomics program, or evaluating your current one:

  • Ensure your program is proactive. The focus should be on managing ergonomic risk factors rather than solely providing intervention for employees who are already experiencing pain or discomfort.
  • Educate employees on how to properly adjust their workstation to fit their body. If you don’t, they may force their body to fit the workstation.
  • Educate employees on ergonomic risk factors and the signs and symptoms of musculoskeletal disorders. Employees should be regularly encouraged to report the onset of symptoms to a supervisor.
  • Educate supervisors on how to recognize risk factors and symptoms in their employees. Even with encouragement, not all employees will report that they are having pain or discomfort at their workstation. Supervisors need to be trained to watch out for their employees and get them an ergonomic evaluation if needed.
  • Provide training for authorized employees who will be asked to respond to any reports of discomfort and/or ergonomic concerns. Even with training, some employees need help to identify problems and solutions for their workstation. Having a more experienced person available to respond to these requests can make all the difference.
  • Involve your ergonomic specialists in the workstation equipment purchasing process. Not considering ergonomics when making purchasing decisions may lead to less adjustable equipment that is poorly suited to your workforce.

If you would like help implementing an ergonomics program for your workplace contact your ICW Risk Management Consultant.