Ergonomic Design Reviews

The ultimate step in being proactive in preventing workplace injuries is to incorporate ergonomics into the design phase of the structure, workstation, equipment, or tool. Ergonomics is often neglected during the design phase, which allows poor designs to be implemented. Over time, these problems can become expensive and time consuming to deal with as they can cause discomfort/injuries, poor workflow and many other, potentially avoidable, issues. A well reviewed design may require an initial investment, however in the long run its built-in efficiency pays for itself.

An Ergonomist can help in several ways:

Human anthropometrics will be incorporated into the design to ensure that (ideally) greater than 95% of workers can be accommodated. Design dimensions will be created with consideration for the population for which it will be designed. For example: a control room operator’s chair would usually be purchased using the corporate standard chair design. These are typically a one-size fit all solution, however, they do not accommodate more than 95% of the population. The corporate standard may lack a seat pan depth adjustment that would provide taller operators with sufficient support for their legs. In situations like these, the Ergonomist may suggest a population study be conducted within the workplace to determine the optimal chair design dimensions and the necessary adjustability features to suit the population.

Workstation design should also be considered to optimize work procedures and minimize extra effort required to maintain poor and sustained postures. The Ergonomist may evaluate the dimensions of the proposed workstation layout and search for possible reaches outside of the optimal working zone and other ergonomic hazards. For example, a worker may reach 30” over a conveyor to retrieve a part once per cycle. This poor posture results in increased time to perform the movement and effort wasted by the worker to perform the task. With a design review, this hazard could be identified and eliminated prior to implementation by moving the items that must be retrieved closer to the operator. If this is done after the implementation phase, it would most likely be costly to redesign the workstation and the work process.

To further optimize the design, the Ergonomist would evaluate the work process that accompanies the workstation design. For instance, they would assess the steps of a part’s assembly to identify inefficient stages. This occurs if a stage in the process requires movement that does not directly influence the task. For instance, a box of materials that must be staged twice by operators may be considered a waste of effort because of the additional movement and time required to do so. Most often, multiple steps may be combined into a single step to reduce the number of efforts required and time to complete the process.

Overall, designing with ergonomics in mind will be a cost-effective method of reducing the risk of injuries and optimizing efficiency and productivity. These are only three of the many strategies Ergonomists use to perform design reviews.

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