The most common type of workplace injuries are musculoskeletal disorders (MSD), or cumulative trauma disorders (CTD), as a result of repetitive bending, lifting, pushing, pulling and carrying. Claims associated with these injuries typically occur when the design of the job does not match employee capabilities. Industrial ergonomics identify critical adjustments, like reducing overhead reaching, strenuous twisting, or other repetitive movements related to working on a manufacturing or plant floor.
“Many emerging technologies in industrial ergonomics can provide instant results for injury prevention, but validation studies are necessary to prove their effectiveness,” said Steve Simon, Senior Risk Control Manager at Safety National. “Keeping employees engaged by implementing basic training policies can be the most cost-effective approach in stopping injures at their source.”
To minimize the frequency and cost of these claims, the following best practices are suggested for industrial ergonomics:
1. Provide a formal policy to employees upon hiring.
Ensure that it is posted on employee bulletin boards and the company’s website, if applicable. This will help streamline and standardize your ergonomic practices, training and expectations. Part of the ergonomic program should include specific best practices, resources and responsibilities for safety, and ergonomic team members or champions.
2. Respond to employees’ concerns regarding ergonomic problems.
Encourage employees to offer suggestions and participate in the program. Implementing a participatory approach should involve employees who are specialists in a particular job to get their feedback on any design or process change. This will help raise awareness of the risks and can significantly reduce the likelihood of incidents leading to injuries.
3. Ensure that employees who engage in highly repetitive work have frequent, short, alternate work activities.
Spending too much time in one position, either sitting or standing, can lead to potential injury. Providing variety or alterations in the tasks or job rotations can also reduce repetition and stress-related injuries. A good practice would be to evaluate the pace of the job to ensure that you are minimizing repetitive stress and manual material handling exposures.
4. Implement ergonomic recommendations and provide follow-up.
This would involve applying ergonomic principles when considering workplace changes and arranging workstations. Making ergonomic evaluations a part of your ongoing workplace assessments will help ensure that the work environment is appropriately evaluated for proper ergonomic practices and conditions.