Ergonomics (or human factors engineering) is the study of workplace conditions, and its goal is to change the working environment (furniture, equipment, the pace of work, etc.) to fit the physical requirements and limitations of employees. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) defines ergonomic disorders (EDs) as a range of health ailments arising from repeated stress on the body. These disorders affect workers involved in repetitive tasks or those whose jobs require heavy lifting. The most common disorders that strike workers are musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs). Employees can be faced with either physical ergonomics, cognitive ergonomics, or organizational ergonomics.
According to PT Health, an ergonomic assessment is crucial for the fitness of the workforce in an organization. Work-related injuries are usually due to awkward posture, forceful movement, and external factors such as noise, which can affect health and work output. These factors can also have serious implications for an employee’s health since they put a strain on the bones, tendons, and muscles. An ergonomic assessment evaluates different kinds of stress on the muscles, tendons, and bones so that the risk of injury is reduced.
If your organization is planning on conducting an ergonomics assessment, the following steps will help them tackle the process successfully.
Step 1: Understand the importance of workplace ergonomics.
Understand that there is no one-size-fits-all approach when improving ergonomics and study the differences in industries, job tasks, and body sizes among employees. This step can be completed by performing a facility tour and observing the different departments present in your organization. Those conducting the assessment should have knowledge of ergonomics hazards and how they are identified. They should be aware of the high-risk areas and diagnose them.
Step 2: Examine existing data
Review work-related injury and illness logs; worker reports of problems; workers’ compensation reports; and near-miss investigation logs. By identifying and analyzing trends or problems related to specific departments, workstations, or job functions, your organization can develop a well-informed, data-driven, and relevant ergonomics program. This will help in creating reports that will be used in measuring the progress of the programme.
Step 3: Develop a standard method and toolkit.
Your organization must develop an ergonomic assessment brief that outlines the methodology, framework, and tools for collecting relevant data. The brief can be used as a guide to ensure that each assessment sticks to the same set of tools and documentation methods. This is because your organization is likely to conduct follow-up ergonomics to measure success and identify improvement.
Please see below for our ergonomics checklist, to help you follow a standardised checklist. You should also consider including the Rapid Upper Limb Assessment (RULA), Rapid Entire Body Assessment (REBA), WISHA Lifting Calculator, or NIOSH Lifting Equation as some of your tools.
Step 4: Involve the workers:
Employees are the experts in what they do. Therefore, engaging them for direct feedback is necessary for getting detailed, first-hand insights on how to enhance their working conditions as well as how to strengthen your organization’s safety culture, which can serve as great PR.
Explain to them what the objective of the ergonomics assessment is and then find out how they work (you can also observe them in their natural habitats while they work). You can also acquire information about how they feel about their working environment by asking questions. You can also do that through a survey if they do not open up immediately.
Step 5: Create a plan for improvement and make recommendations.
After you have collected both subjective and objective insights, you can start analyzing what you’ve learned about your organization. This will help you identify risks and opportunities. Once you have done the analysis, you can start putting the insights into action by crafting an implementation strategy.
The recommendations in your plan should be simple, measurable, achievable, results-focused and time-bound.
Your plan should answer the following questions: the timeline, how success will be measured, and recourses that will be necessary for the program; stakeholder groups involved; and how the plan will be communicated.
Step 6: Put your solutions to the test.
Re-evaluate the implementation plan frequently to ensure that changes are working the way they should be. As with any program, goals and objectives should be maintained and monitored closely.