Effectiveness of Controls in Ergonomics

In a literature review that explored the effectiveness of ergonomic programs and the control measures implemented, Goggins, et al., proposed the following correlation between ergonomic controls and their effectiveness:

The relationship demonstrates that behavior based controls have only 5-20% effectiveness at reducing MSDs, whereas more invasive controls that minimize the level or time of exposure to workplace hazards increase effectiveness 20-40%.  This strongly indicates that ergonomic controls that focus on engineering or elimination practices show the highest rate of workplace injury reduction by having an effectiveness rating of 60-100%.  The key factor is properly assessing a company’s workplace MSD hazards to ensure that low cost elimination options are found. “To reduce or eliminate exposure, effective ergonomic practices need to be addressed. Risk factors need to be quantified and the root causes need to be identified. By using engineering controls, practices and methods it is then possible to reduce or eliminate the exposure. This method appears to have a greater effectiveness, both from a cost and risk reduction perspective” (McGowan).

Overall corporate impression seems to be that engineering projects are costly and require considerable time.  However, by implementing an effective ergonomics program that utilizes appropriate resources within a company, ergonomic initiatives can be leveraged to eliminate a workplace hazard. “Some engineering improvements, on a per project basis, could cost pennies” (McGowan).  When we look at controls such as layout, product orientation, and working heights, many ergonomic woes could be improved with low monetary and time expenditure, such as reorganizing a workstation or process to prevent twisting (or other awkward postures) or implementing a cart or conveyor to reduce lifting/carrying demands.

To ensure the ergonomic process/implementation is meeting both budgetary and injury concerns, a systematic standardized process should be implemented to help rate and rank workplace control initiatives.  This will help ensure that low cost, feasible, and often simple controls are considered first.  This will result in capital not being wasted on failed attempts with high sticker value.


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