In our past two posts, Part 1 and Part 2 we introduced you to participatory ergonomics (if you haven’t already heard of it) and then went deep with specifics, all with the goal of providing you with value. The big thing that we love about participatory ergonomics is its scalability, check out our previous posts for more information. Without further adieu let’s get into some of our top tips concerning its implementation!
1. Management Support (in our last post here)
2. Develop an Ergonomics Team (in our last post here)
3. Provide ‘Protected’ Time
In order to ensure success, the ergonomics team must have regular face-to-face meetings. To have a motivated team, ergonomics should not be expected to be completed on top of someone’s regular work responsibilities. Or even worse, to schedule it ‘after hours’ (unless of course that is the only available time to assess a certain task). You may be wondering what is a suitable frequency to meet. Well, like any good ergonomics advice, it depends. Factors influencing meeting frequencies are:
- How advanced the organization is in the ergonomic process (less experience may mean that the team meets more frequently)
- Type of industry
- Demand of work (is there simply too many deadlines to meet at certain times in the year)
There should be at least a baseline meeting frequency – an agreed upon timeline that is fairly consistent. Some sources have recommended meeting monthly with an appropriate amount of time to address any ergonomic concerns and appropriate next steps. It all depends on what works for your organization and it may take some trial and error to find a timing that works for everyone while still accomplishing the ergonomics team’s goals.
Training is an essential element of any ergonomics approach. It’s recommended that the training be lead by a qualified ergonomics trainer that establishes a basis of ergonomic knowledge as well as the practical aspects of how to assess jobs. Training doesn’t need to get overly technical into ergonomic concepts. Rather it should be as ‘real world’ and hands on as possible. As a general suggestion, the following topics should be the bare minimum of ergonomics training:
- Practical ergonomic concepts
- Identification and assessment of ergonomic risk
- Ergonomic evaluation tool
- Root cause analysis
- Solution development
- Record keeping
- Follow-up assessment
- Hand on coaching (ergonomics expert leads the team in the full ergonomics process with one job)
How do you determine which jobs to assess first? That’s where targeting comes into play. Ideally you would want to target jobs that need immediate attention in order to prevent injuries from happening in the first place. In my experience, this is really exciting stuff that is truly unique to the participatory ergonomics approach. Why? The team’s expertise can give some great insight on where to target. Many times once staff find out about the ergonomics process, they will go out of their way to communicate any concerns to the ergonomic team representatives in order to have their specific concerns addressed. On top of this valuable feedback, you can use the following suggestions to target concerns and prioritize solutions:
- Workers compensation claims to identify jobs or area with higher than average injury rates
- First aid logs
- Your organization’s injury reports (lost time injuries, near missess, or health care claims) to identify any patterns
- Discomfort surveys
- Worker or supervisor comments/feedback or a suggestion box placed in a central area
- Use information from other sources such as quality problems
- Ergonomic assessments tools to identify high-risk jobs
Take a look at the table below. It gives a really neat perspective in how to identify priority based on whether a musculoskeletal injury has occurred, if there is worker discomfort or other concerns, and if there are ergonomic risk present.
Here’s one PRO-TIP that may save you from future headaches: document the process of prioritizing jobs (keeping rough notes, calculations, etc). At some point, concerns may arise why some work areas have received improvements and others are still waiting. Being able to show the logical approach to prioritize work areas will help to deal with these concerns and increase the committee’s credibility.
6. Solution Building (aka Brainstorming Process)
Once the ergonomic concern has been identified, developing solutions should be the ergonomic team’s primary concern. It is critical that all members have a chance to add ideas and opinions; decisions must be made through consensus. This is where a good chairperson can make a positive impact. A good chairperson will help the ergonomics team to challenge barriers to develop practical and innovative solutions. Finding sustainable solutions are best. These are also called high impact/low cost solutions because sustainable solutions do not necessarily need to be expensive or impractical.
PRO-TIP: Once again, it is all about documentation with developing solutions. Remember to document the in and outs of each solution – even those contrary to the one being implemented. Why do this? It will save the team major time in the future if the solution ever needs to be revisited.
7. Implementation Plan
What I have found best for solution implementation is assigning a solution to one/group of team members and then giving each solution a practical time period to complete. It’s not absolutely necessary (or practical) for the solution to be totally implemented with this approach, instead the team can use this approach to break down complex solutions to manageable steps. Here is the timeline that has worked for me in the past:
- Immediate (within 2 weeks)
- 30 days
- 60 days
- 90 days
This framework saves the team a lot of guesswork and as a result improves the team’s efficiency and productivity. I know that something that we are all looking to improve! The feedback that I have received from past clients have always been high with this specific approach.
There you have it! This is our final post in our 3 part series on participatory ergonomics. Like what you read? Be sure to subscribe to our newsletter for exclusive offers and information.