Creating Success for your Ergonomic Committee

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Creating a working environment where ergonomic issues are addressed with ease can be challenging. As a result, the ergonomic �to-do� list often grows until a claim or employee grievance jumps a singular issue above all others.

While musculoskeletal hazards are frequent for most companies (>40% of workplace injuries in Ontario), their severity rating is often low when compared to items such as working at heights, confined spaces, and lock out tag out. An Ergonomics Committee may be the right fit to address these issues if you can answer �yes� to one or more of these questions:

  • high numbers of MSD injuries;
  • high absenteeism;
  • frequent requests for ice packs, breaks, braces (or similar);
  • high use of benefits for massage therapy, physiotherapy, chiropractic treatments

An Ergonomics Committee can help by allowing musculoskeletal hazards to be assessed and prioritized without other health & safety hazards overshadowing them. When ergonomics becomes the sole focus, the control options often become more reasonable and practical.

The keys to having a successful committee are relatively simple:

1. Pick the Right People

A great committee will include members that have a variety of expertise. Think of who will be implementing the change and who the change will affect. Workers, managers/supervisors, engineers and maintenance/facilities staff should all be included. Guests should always be welcome; inviting other workers, vendors or managers as subject matter experts for specific initiatives can help achieve success with speed and proficiency.

2. Train

Being able to assess hazards as a unit is a challenge new committees often experience. Everyone comes in with their own ideas of ergonomics and many of those opinions are coloured by past experiences. It is important for a committee to have a solid voice and the best way is to train the group as a whole. When done correctly, Ergonomics Committee training becomes more than learning how to identify hazards and conducting assessments and becomes the initial step on how your committee will commit to solving your ergonomic challenges.

3. Determine Risk

There are numerous ways of assessing the risk of a hazard. The tools an Ergonomist uses are not necessarily the method recommended for an Ergonomics Committee. Ideally, pick one or two assessment tools (i.e. checklists, industry aids, etc.) that the team can use consistently and accurately, and then focus on the action plan to remedy the issues identified. The Ontario Musculoskeletal Disorder Prevention Guidelines outlines that risk assessments can be done simply but still effectively. If high detail is needed (i.e. to respond to an injury) the best course of action is to call a Certified Professional Ergonomist.

4. Track Effectiveness

Collecting accident statistics (as they relate to MSDs), project costs, absenteeism, productivity and quality/waste, etc. and comparing pre and post data will reinforce the impact ergonomics can have on your company. This is a great project for an Ergonomics Committee to start with; gathering this data and determining how it will be tracked, maintained and used is a fundamental first step in being able to show a Return on Investment.

5. Celebrate Successes

key component of a committee is communicating changes made, and most importantly, why the change is an improvement. Unfortunately, so much time is spent constructing and implementing the controls that few take time to show the rest of the company why the change is good. Having the employees and management see the value in the committee by showcasing its accomplishments is critical for ongoing support and buy-in. An ergonomics board or speaking at pre-shift meetings are great tools to make sure that the changes made are understood and appreciated by all.

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