I was fortunate to present the ergonomics-related session, “Do the Heavy Lifting: How to Solve and Address Your Material Handling Challenges,” at this year’s Wisconsin Safety Conference, located in Wisconsin Dells. The event left me with a renewed inspiration that organizations are still striving to learn and do more for their people and processes. However, through my discussions with others about their ergonomics initiatives, I realized some people still don’t comprehend these two main elements:
- Data should be quantitative. Gone are the days of using the data collected from an ergonomics analysis checklist to make decisions. There are many tools available to enable the ergonomics subject matter experts to quantify job risks. Data drives the improvement process by prioritizing which jobs to fix first and it communicates to management the need for funding. After the moderate to high-risk jobs are identified, the risk factors (direct causes) should be listed and assigned to an ergonomics team member to fix.
- The second, and perhaps the most important perspective, is that ergonomics is an engineering discipline, not a and health & wellness one. Safety injuries are acute, meaning they result suddenly from a traumatic event. Musculoskeletal injuries, because of an ineffective ergonomics process, are chronic injuries that occur slowly from overuse. The way in which organizations address these injuries are vastly different too—safety is required, whereas, ergonomics is a continuous improvement effort.
It’s vital that companies strive to quantify their process and clarify its position in industry. When done, good things happen.