It’s the program everyone loves to hate. It takes a lot of work, and the benefits aren’t always clear.
I am speaking about ergonomics, the science of fitting the workplace to the individual. Most agencies implement an ergonomics program to benefit their employees and lower worker’s compensation costs. These programs, though, are as piecemeal and varied as the individuals they are trying to help. They are complex, involving countless types of equipment and from a myriad of manufacturers. The cost-benefit analysis is difficult to complete because it can take years for clear financial trends to appear in the data. Much of the data depends on employees’ subjective experiences, with evaluations happening one or a few at a time.
So, it is understandable that human resources directors and risk managers worldwide throw their hands up in despair when running an ergonomics program. The time sink feels bottomless, and you’re not even sure you’re helping anyone.
Well, we’re here to tell you how to do ergonomics right with these simple steps.
Set The Standard
The first step to any program is establishing the best standard for your agency.
Consider the most common and repetitive job tasks your employees must perform. Do they do those tasks standing and moving around, or are they sitting in place at a computer workstation for hours on end? Do their responsibilities expose them to excessive sound? What lighting do they require to perform their jobs?
Analyze the responsibilities of each position in the company and identify what regular motions and actions are required for anyone in those jobs. This will tell you what equipment your employees need in their workstations.
Once you have established their needs, you can set the standard for the equipment that best suits those needs—and ensure that everyone receives that equipment. Everyone can have the same keyboard tray, size cubicle, adjustable chair, etc.
Economies of Scale
Buying similar equipment pieces has the benefit of allowing you to purchase at mass economies of scale. A keyboard tray manufacturer will likely give you a significant discount per unit if you purchase 400 trays instead of just 4. Buying your equipment en masse can save your agency tens of thousands of dollars or more, depending on the size of your purchase.
This is why it is essential to set the standard for the equipment that best suits your agency’s needs ahead of time. If you don’t know what will work best for your employees, then it doesn’t matter if you buy the equipment all at once. At some point, your employees will complain that the equipment does not suit them or their jobs, or they will suffer repetitive work-related injuries that impact your bottom line.
Another benefit of buying the right equipment simultaneously is that one mass installation will save you hours of labor.
Buy Right (And It Will Last)
Ideally, the equipment you purchase will be adjustable and durable. Most ergonomically designed equipment will be adaptable to meet the needs of the vast majority of your employees. If you know going in that 80 percent of your employees should be able to use a particular piece of equipment, you can then buy a handful of more extremely adjustable pieces for those who fall outside of this range.
Buying the right equipment is more than just fit, however. Thanks to economies of scale, you may be able to afford higher-quality equipment that can last longer. This will save your agency money in the long run.
Once you have the equipment in place, the job is just starting—but it will still be more manageable than handling one employee at a time every other week for eternity.
You should set up methods for employee feedback on how the equipment works for them. That could be sending out surveys, holding meetings, or having a drop box or email for direct correspondence.
Also, monitor how your employees use the equipment or even if they are using them. Take the time to ensure they are adjusting their equipment correctly.
Perform regular data analysis of feedback, complaints, injuries, and any other indicators of the effectiveness of the equipment. This may include worker’s compensation costs or work time missed due to work-related injuries.
Make It Easy
One more step is to make it easy for employees to request help with their equipment or to have an ergonomics evaluation done. Try to streamline this process. Employees often choose not to bring up issues they may be having because they do not want to be seen as being troublesome. Make sure they know you welcome their feedback and are invested in helping them, perhaps with a prominent poster in a shared workplace area like a break room.
Even better, utilize a site that allows the employee to perform their own evaluation and to understand how to adjust their equipment. We offer our ErgoSelfie course site, which does just this.
Listen to Matt and I talk more about ergonomics in our video above to pick up more tips on how to run your program.