December 2017 Newsletter:

Ergonomic Design Review: Best Practice Approach


Reactive vs. Proactive


A truly effective ergonomic program is working ‘PROACTIVELY’, not reactively. While we know our clients are often working to ‘put out fires’, we occasionally have an opportunity to get proactive, preventing injuries rather than reacting to them.

This year, one of those projects was the development of a custom manual material handling device for a highly physical task (picture heavy, large and awkward parts that currently exceed lifting guidelines for a 2-person lift!). This is a design review, which involves assessing the potential risk based on a proposed design or drawing(s). Design reviews are not uncommon, however this company took a very comprehensive approach to ensure the final product addressed all ergonomic issues.

Project overview:

  • Ergonomic Risk Assessment of current state of job/task
  • Selection of engineering firm to develop a custom assist
  • Ergonomic Risk Assessment of proposed drawings/specs
  • Site visit to engineering firm to conduct testing on the assist to determine if ergonomic specifications have been met
  • Site visit to the client to conduct final testing post-installation to ensure all ergonomic specifications have been met

What makes this approach a ‘best practice’ is the requirements this client is putting on the engineering firm to ensure they meet all ergonomic guidelines. Let's take a closer look at some of these steps:

Design review

Once a proposed design was finalized, we were asked to weigh in on the ergonomic issues that we could foresee AND develop parameters that the engineering firm would have to meet to get the design approved. This ensured that the end product addressed both the engineering and space needs, as well as minimized the ergonomic risk. The parameters we outlined for them were:

  • Reach distances
  • Push/pull forces

Site visits

Site visits ensure that the assist being delivered meets the ergonomic specifications outlined. Doing a site visit during the fabrication process, BEFORE the equipment arrives at the facility allows us to identify any issues that need to be addressed prior to it being installed and up and running. It’s always easier to address issues in the design and fabrication stages!

Start thinking about how you can implement PROactive strategies into your program to reduce the time you spend ‘fighting fires’. It takes some forethought and planning but is well worth it in the long run as you will be able to start looking forwards to creating some goals and targets rather than always looking backwards at injuries.


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