March 2020 Newsletter:

Successful Ergonomic Interventions: 4 Key Steps to Getting it Right


Not all ergonomic assessments need to be a complex biomechanical modelling analysis. A participatory approach whereby multiple stakeholders (including the workers) are involved in the solutions process can be an effective way of doing an ergonomic evaluation. The assessment process is more simplistic in nature, but studies repeatedly show that a participatory approach leads to a greater acceptance of the ergonomic interventions at the worker level, likely due to their involvement in the change process.

There is nothing worse than spending thousands of dollars on a “solution” that doesn’t actually solve the problem. To make sure your ergonomic assessment doesn’t fall flat, consider these steps:

1. As a group, identify the problem or challenges. Ideally, this includes observing the task in action and using a standardized checklist to take note of hazards that are ergonomic-related (high force, high reaches, etc.). There is nothing better than seeing a job/task in action to truly understand the challenges.

2. Discuss the identified hazards, and as a group, determine the top contributing factors. You could use a variety of tools to help guide the discussion, including a fishbone diagram. Ultimately, you are trying to do a simple root cause analysis.

3. Brainstorm options for solutions. Looking at the top contributing factors, what are some ideas that could address the hazards or challenges? Adjust shelving heights, buy height adjustable pallet stands, re-design the space, install a robotic palletizer, provide training on lifting techniques – remember, this is brainstorming so list every possible idea you can think of, no matter the cost or feasibility at this point. Let the ideas flow. This is where having a diverse stakeholder group is helpful! Everyone will bring different perspectives – the workers, workers from another department, Maintenance, Engineering, Continuous Improvement, Director/Manager, etc. and you may get some creative ideas. Tip: write each idea on its own sticky note to use for the next step.

sticky notes brainstorm process ergonomic controls

impact versus cost matrix4. Map out an impact vs. cost matrix. Make it big on a whiteboard – place each idea that was written on a sticky note onto the grid. The group should agree on placement (again, a great reason to have multiple stakeholders involved!). This exercise will help to create an action plan. Ideas that fall in the “low cost, high impact” region are great places to start. Not that you will ignore the ideas in “high cost, high impact”, but those may be considered major projects that will take time and additional resources to actually implement.

Using the participatory approach where you involve multiple stakeholders, including the workers, helps to bring diversity in solution brainstorming, but also helps to ensure the solution will address the actual problems or challenges brought forward by the workers who do the job/task.

If you would like templates or further ideas for this simple assessment process, please contact us at info@proergonomics.ca


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