Participatory Ergonomics Guide Part 2

In our last post we introduced you to participatory ergonomics – specifically what it is, its  benefits, and some words of warning from my own experiences. Like I mentioned in the last post, I’ve spent 5 years implementing participatory ergonomic programs, so you can say that I know my stuff! Today I want to get even deeper with the specifics so if you are going to go ahead and implement it, this will give you a solid start. If you ever need some extra advice about implementing these types of programs in your organization, we can help! Just check out our E-Coaching services here.

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The saying the ‘devil is in the details’ is especially true with implementing participatory ergonomics processes. I hope you get some value from these perspectives.

1. Management Support

Senior management and union support (if applicable) are absolutely required for a successful participatory ergonomics process. This can be secured before the participatory ergonomics initiative or after a small project (that has received positive results, obviously!) has been completed. Why is this so important? A strong commitment from management is necessary to create a sustainable participatory ergonomics approach. Where, the success of this participatory approach will be directly related to the strength of management’s commitment. How else are you going to get the time, money, and overall support for this initiative if management have not bought into the process? Trust me, when I say this is the TOP factor in its success. I have first hand experience of what happens when a suitable amount of support is not given: staff become less engaged with the ergonomics process, leading to much less impact. As a result, it takes a lot of time and money to re-engage both the front line employees and management back into the ergonomics process. One more point on management support; management’s commitment must be effectively communicated with staff as to lead by example; all staff must see the value in participating in this approach.

2. Develop an Ergonomics Team

From our last post, we chatted about how you could either develop a team of 6-12 people or train the majority of your staff in the participatory ergonomics approach.

PARTIPATORY ERGONOMICSIf you choose to develop an Ergonomics Team with 6-12 people here are some suggestions: The members of this team don’t necessarily need to be related to ergonomics, health and safety or even human resources. They just need to have the required skills, such as tremendous interpersonal skills. In my experience it’s a good idea to have a match (in terms of participant representation) between those from all levels in an organization – not just those who are (or not) in management positions. This never seems to go well for staff engagement to have only representation from only one type of job. Specifically this should be a cross-functional team; representation from various areas and job titles within your organizations. Using cross-sectional teams saves a lot of time and ads a lot of expertise and value.

Pro-Tip: A strategy that I have always found useful is to establish a leader for the ergonomics team. The value here is that this representative can talk to a designated leader from the management side about any opportunities, or even budgets that the ergonomics team might require. This strategy does save a lot of time by streamlining the process; no longer does the group have to decide who first will initially talk to management, which can sometimes take A LOT of time. It can be difficult to find a leader. Not because there are too many volunteers, but usually because there simply is no one who wants to add this task to their duties. Also, it’s important to note that just because one person is selected does not necessarily mean that they will be the ergonomics team leader until the end of time. Instead, you can quarterly, bi-annually, or annually rotate this representation. You might get a lot more buy-in with this route. I certainly have. Lastly, keep in mind to not continuously nominate your organization’s ‘MVPs’ to be part of committees, such as be the designated leader position. Not only is it draining for those individuals, it doesn’t encourage opportunities for other staff in your organization to develop future engagement and staff leadership.

Next Steps…

In our next and final post in our participatory ergonomics series we will be giving you some more tips about its implementation. Stay tuned for Part 3!

Through the administration of countless assessments in both private and public sectors, Darcie has gained a wealth of knowledge and built a successful practice in the field of ergonomics. She has extensive expertise in conducting office ergonomics assessments in large scale workplaces for all different types of scenarios, from simple adjustments to incredibly complex cases. Darcie also has vast experience in delivering training presentations on the various aspects of ergonomics “best practices” in the workplace. Darcie is a Certified Professional Ergonomist through the Board of Certification in Professional Ergonomics, as recognized by the International Ergonomics Association. She also has a Masters of Science, specializing in ergonomics. A little known fact about Darcie is that she once scored from half, off a free kick, in a university varsity soccer (football) match!

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