Responding is Rick Barker, CPE, CSP, and principal solutions strategist, ergonomics, VelocityEHS, Chicago.
A successful ergonomics program relies on a process that aims to reduce workplace musculoskeletal disorder risk exposure. Applying a continuous improvement model to your ergonomics program will help you implement more improvements by creating a sustainable process for identifying causes, determining high-impact/low-cost improvements, tracking/reporting improvement status and actively seeking other applications of successful solutions.
Keep in mind that safety professionals are rarely able to implement every idea identified for every operation assessed because single jobs often have three or more options for improvement, each with its own investment of time and money. Instead, improvements need to be prioritized based on investment required and level of projected risk reduction.
One effective approach is by beginning with changes that introduce safer processes, don’t require much investment and have a recordable impact on the risk level of the job. It can be difficult to build engagement and enthusiasm for processes that require significant monetary investment, especially if the results are shown over time. Even worse, this can create a mindset that mitigating MSD factors is expensive and will negatively affect future project proposals.
It’s also helpful to review and adjust your key performance indicators. Although several appropriate metrics can be used to manage your ergonomics process properly, the best way to achieve buy-in from leadership is through the bottom line. Two effective KPIs for reinforcing improvements are tracking the amount of risk reduction and high-lighting the return on investment. ROI is essential for demonstrating the value of investing in controls by reporting the following items to leadership:
- Did controls reduce MSD risk to an acceptable level?
- How much has been spent on improvements (investment), and what’s the cost savings in injury prevention, cycle time reduction, quality improvement and employee retention (return)?
- What is the average risk reduction per dollar spent on improvements?
Finally, make sure to demonstrate the value of your ergonomics program throughout the year, instead of just at the end of it. Progress to goal should be monitored all year and made visible throughout the organization. This not only helps keep employees motivated and on track with implemented improvements, but also encourages leadership to adjust resources and support for more improvements. Ease in collecting, collating, sorting and reporting information is critical for managing these measures. Software programs help generate reports and administer information about your ergonomics improvement process, freeing up time for the team to focus on finding and fixing issues.
Editor’s note: This article represents the independent views of the author and should not be construed as a National Safety Council endorsement.