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The Ergonomics Maturity Curve illustrates the evolutionary process companies go through to develop sustainable success in the reduction of musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs). The key is to keep the program moving toward the top right corner of the graph.

The four primary approaches companies use to reduce MSDs can be linked to the phases of the maturity curve.

Reactive

In the reactive phase, when a person first experiences an MSD, he or she must be treated and the cause of the injury must be identified and changed. In other words, the action causing the injury must be stopped; the employee must find a different way to do the job but maintain efficiency in the process.

Preventive

During the preventive phase, the focus is on measuring the individual person’s physical abilities (strength, reach, range of motion) and matching their capabilities to the task. To obtain proper measurements and to determine job descriptions for each job, companies must complete a physical demands analysis (PDA). Next, a pre-work screening of a prospective employee is conducted to understand his or her capability; the employee is then matched to a functional job description based on that capability.

Proactive

The proactive phase involves quantifying the risk factors that cause MSDs and then prioritizing them according to their rank within a given operation. Once the risk factors are identified, plans are put in place to “fix the job” by modifying the layout or design of existing workstations, tools, and equipment to fit the people doing the work.

Advanced

In the advanced phase you “design out the risk” or “fix the future” by placing ergonomic design standards in the hands of engineers and procurement and facility planners during the design, build, and test phases of manufacturing, equipment selection, and facility or office planning. Organizations with the most comprehensive ergonomics programs have emphasized activities in this phase.