In the movie Field of Dreams, Ray Kinsella heard a voice tell him, “If you build it, he will come.” This may work in the movies, but it’s no way to ensure participation in your ergonomics program. A common frustration we hear from ergonomics program mangers is the lack or inconsistency of participation by team members, engineers, and others involved in the program. These people, their skills, knowledge, and time are essential for success in improving workplace ergonomics and reducing musculoskeletal disorders. Their participation typically starts to wane when they are unsure of what they should be doing, are unclear of the time available to fulfill their roles, and/or are not aware of their manager’s support. All of this can be avoided through some preplanning.
Here are five key practices to ensure commitment:
- Define roles and responsibilities. Clearly spell out the responsibilities for each role supporting the ergonomics program. This should include roles at all levels of the organization such as sponsor, process lead, team members, engineers, supervisors, employees, and safety staff. For each, list the few, core things they are responsible for. This exercise ensures that all aspects of your program are covered and there is no overlap of responsibilities, and it clearly communicates expectations to each person. Include the learning objectives of ergonomics training required for each role.
- Obtain commitment. Meet with individuals and their direct managers to review the responsibilities for their roles. This is your opportunity to discuss the expectations for them in support of the ergonomics process, address questions, and get their commitment. Without commitment from individuals and their managers…”Do Not Pass Go.”
- Agree on the time commitment. People need to know how much time is allowed for them to serve in this role supporting ergonomics. In recent benchmarking studies, we found that most ergonomics process managers committed 4 to 8 hours each month to supporting the ergonomics program. The majority of ergonomics team members committed 1 to 4 hours of time each month to conducting MSD risk assessments and leading job improvement projects.
- Hold people accountable. The items listed above set the stage to hold people accountable for their performance. Using metrics for the team provides a measure of their progress. Any contribution an employee makes to support the ergonomics process should be considered as part of his or her job and included in regular evaluations.
- Provide recognition and feedback. Without monitoring and feedback, you don’t know how well your process is doing. The same is true for people, especially those supporting a cross-functional program like ergonomics. People need to hear what they are doing well and where they can improve in order to adjust their performance.
For more information about best practices, visit the Resources section of www.humantech.com. There, you’ll find benchmarking studies of successful ergonomics programs.