Ergonomics done right.®
March 11th, 2008

Pieces of the Puzzle – How mature are your ergonomic initiatives?

We’re putting the finishing touches on a benchmarking study [DOWNLOAD HERE] that will be shared at the Applied Ergonomics Conference next week. The purpose of the study is to identify the "pieces of the puzzle" that companies with mature ergonomics initiatives have found important to their success. Each of the six participating  companies has had an enterprise-wide approach to ergonomic improvement for over a decade.

One general trend form the study is that the ergonomics initiatives matured through the steps of reactive, proactive, and preventative activities. We think of this as the "ergonomics maturity curve".

  • Reactive: implementing ergonomic improvements when an employee is injured or specific complaints are received
  • Proactive: identifying opportunities to reduce ergonomic risk factors, either through continuous improvement activities or more systematic risk reduction efforts
  • Preventative: removing barriers to performance and safety when selecting tools and equipment, configuring work stations, or designing products

While the methods and implementation timelines varied considerably, all six of the companies have established specific expectations for workplace design and improvement. These are expressed in two forms:

  1. Ergonomics design criteria that are applied to new tools, equipment, and workstations (PREVENTATIVE activities)
  2. Ergonomic assessments that determine the acceptability of existing job processes (PROACTIVE and REACTIVE activites)

These companies are enhancing workplace performance – removing obstacles and taking advantage of opportunities – by optimizing the safety, quality, and productivity of the workforce. In a sense, they are applying an engineering discipline to the intersection of people, work, and environment. Not a bad exercise if you think people make productivity happen.