When it comes to conducting valuable and accurate risk assessments, the assessor not only must be trained how to use the assessment form, but should also know how to operate the appropriate set of tools and equipment. As a consultant, new clients often ask me what tools they should buy, and the list is usually much shorter and simpler than they would expect. Here are some of the high-priority tools to include in an ergonomics toolkit at your facility, with a few best practices for using them:
1. Camera, tablet, or phone. When possible, it’s best to record a video of the task you’re observing.
- Always get consent before taking a photo or video of an individual.
- Try to get the person’s entire body in the frame of the video.
- Be conscious of video length and file size limits.
2. Force gauge. Use a force gauge to measure pushing, pulling, or finger and palm press forces performed during the job, and use the measurements to assess force risk factors. Examples of these types of forces include pulling a pallet jack, pushing a supply cart, assembling parts, or seating parts into a fixture.
- Double-check that the force gauge is on the correct setting and you’re measuring in the correct units.
- Apply the force with the force gauge in the same direction as it is normally applied during the task. Apply the force in a steady manner, avoiding jerking movements that will cause the force gauge to spike.
- Include a solid strap to attach to the force gauge hook when evaluating pulling tasks.
- Collect multiple readings of the measurements and average the results, removing any extreme outliers.
3. Scale. Weigh all external loads that an individual handles during a task, such as tools, parts, or completed products, and use the measurements to assess force risk factors. If a scale is not readily available in the work environment, include a small portable scale in your ergo toolkit. You can sometimes attach lighter-weight, smaller items to the hook attachment of a force gauge to weigh them.
4. Tape measure. When assessing a workstation, it’s useful to know parameters involved in a task, such as hand working heights and horizontal reaches, so that you can cross-reference them with design guidelines to check for acceptability. When taking measurements, always hold the tape measure perfectly horizontal or vertical, and never at an angle.
5. Hand and pinch dynamometers. Use dynamometers to measure pinch or power grip forces performed throughout a task, and use the measurements to assess force risk factors.
- When using a dynamometer, the assessor should hold the tool while the person being observed simulates the force required by the task.
- Orient the dynamometer so that the user’s hand position is the same as when he or she performs the task.
When you first begin conducting assessments at your facility, we recommend doing so with at least one other person. Once you get to the stage of completing the assessment form, cross-check your assessment with another person to ensure that everyone on your ergonomics team is on the same page and is completing the assessment form correctly and consistently across the group.
For more information on program best practices, check out our Risk Mapping Best Practices and the e-book, “Four Ways to Sustain Your Ergonomics Process.”