The value of ergonomic design in workplaces is undisputed. But how can a business go about establishing an ergonomics program? Businesses have access to many resources, some of which are free, to help them prevent or minimize ergonomic hazards. Whether a company decides to tackle their ergonomics issues in-house or bring in an outside consultant, there are abundant resources for support and information.
Using a Consultant
What can you expect from an ergonomics consultant? If you engage a professional to conduct an ergonomics assessment of your workplace, be prepared to show your injury and illness logs. Review of this data will help a consultant identify possible ergonomic hazards and will help direct resources to problem areas.
After reviewing this information a consultant will observe potentially hazardous tasks and talk with employees and supervisors. The consultant may videotape tasks and/or do job analyses.
The consultant’s written report will include a description of current and potential ergonomic hazards as well as suggestions for ergonomic improvements. Suggestions may include changes in equipment, processes, and environment and/or employee training.
Doing it In-House
Many companies choose to create an ergonomics team to address ergonomics issues. Teams usually include various levels of personnel. It is essential to involve people who do the hazardous tasks; they often have the best ideas for improvements. Ergonomics team members must receive training on recognition and control of ergonomic hazards. Management must provide adequate time and money for the ergonomics team to do its job. Some of the resources below include checklists to guide ergonomic evaluations.
For companies with safety and health offices, ergonomics planning may fall within that department.
Some companies choose to hire an ergonomics professional or charge a current employee with that responsibility.
List of Resources
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has a wealth of information on ergonomics. In addition to publications, OSHA offers e-tools for specific industries and tasks. http://www.osha.gov/SLTC/ergonomics/outreach.html
OSHA consultation services offer free on-site consultation to help businesses recognize and reduce ergonomic hazards. Consultations are separate from enforcement and do not result in citations or penalties.
Many states provide free or low-cost ergonomic consulting and training, often through their labor or health departments.
Manufacturers of ergonomic furniture and equipment often offer consultation on ergonomic design. They can help you choose the right equipment.
Healthcare providers, especially providers of occupational health services, treat workers with workplace injuries and illnesses. Many also provide ergonomic training and workstation adjustment, especially for injured workers returning to work.
Workers’ compensation insurance carriers often provide free or low-cost ergonomic services, including training and consultation.
The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) has publications on ergonomics.
Several colleges and universities have ergonomics programs that offer information and/or consultation for the public.
June 2009/John J. Kovacs
John J. Kovacs, a.k.a. The Workbench Guy, is V.P. & G.M. of Kessler America and has been providing numerous industries with top quality industrial workbenches, height-adjustable ergonomic worktables, sit-stands and anti-fatigue work mats. Free ” Insider Report On Ergonomics” available at http://www.KesslerAmerica.com
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