June 2017 Newsletter:

Ergonomic Training for Front-Line Staff

Front-line staff have a deep understanding of the work they do every day. Teaching them to identify ergonomic hazards (force, repetition, duration, posture) can tap into their expertise to help improve both safety and productivity.  

Ergonomic front-line staff training teaches workers to identify actions that may put them at an increased risk of injury, like repetitive forceful exertions and sustained awkward postures. With this information, workers can not only improve their own movement over the course of the day, but can alert management to other potential problems. In addition to helping keep workers safe, this type of dialogue helps cultivate a workplace where employees feel valued because their input is respected.

This type of training will vary depending on the industry your company is in, but here are some general guidelines for what should be included in the training:

  • Basic ergonomic injury information (What is an MSD?  How does it occur? What are the signs/symptoms?)
  • Ergonomic hazards to look for at their workstations (Force, awkward or static posture, repetition, vibration, etc.)
  • Practical strategies to allow employees to manage these issues through work method/layout changes
  • Communication about proper reporting processes to generate continuous improvement ideas

When teaching your workers to observe their own ergonomic hazards, consider these tips:

  • Train with pictures/video: pictures really do speak a thousand words so use video and pictures of example tasks at your worksite and have employees talk about what hazards they see, how they could do it better through work method changes and how they could improve the job with engineering change (e.g. do they need a new tool for this?).
  • Break the job down into tasks: trying to summarize an entire work day can be challenging. Instead, start by looking at the different tasks employees complete over the course of a day, and look at the postures might adopt and the objects they lift.
  • Get the big picture and details, but not all at once: it’s important to know about the big, whole-body movements that you do (carrying, lifting, pushing, pulling, etc.). It’s equally important, however, to understand the postures you adopt while doing these things. Generally, it’s best to start with the big picture (e.g. what am I lifting/carrying/pushing/pulling etc.?) before getting into the fine details (what is my arm/wrist/back etc. doing while this is happening?)

A word of caution… providing education often generates a flurry of activity and discussion around the topic.  You are likely to receive an influx of requests and suggested changes, or identified issues that need to be managed, so be prepared, and have a strategy in place for how you will handle this. Although the initial response can be overwhelming, if you start actively making changes and improving set-ups you will find that the long-term gain associated with the process is well worth the short-term challenges.
 

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