I was in a meeting with a new client last week. “Linda” (not her real name), is the Director of Environmental Health & Safety for a growing biotech firm. Our firm has been brought in to address a growing number of Repetitive Strain Injuries in the company’s lab facilities. “Linda” shared her frustrations with the company’s past approach to Repetitive Motion injuries;
“We wait until something bad happens, until it’s too late to avoid injury and the costs associated with the injury. We practice Whack-a-Mole Ergonomics. When an employee complains of pain…WHACK…only then can I get them support. Another issue in a different part of the company, WHACK…again, band-aid the issue with a product or even bring in an Ergonomist to take a closer look at that employees issues. We spend all our time WHACKING and reacting; we need to get ahead of the issues.”
Linda’s Whack-a-Mole analogy describes the reality in most companies; expertise and instruction is brought in after pain &/or injury. When the average direct cost of a Musculoskeletal injury is $25,000 (that excludes indirect costs that average 4 x that number based on OSHA data) – the cost of Whack-a-Mole Ergonomics can add up quickly. A significant part of our Ergonomic practice is working with client’s to build a PROACTIVE Ergonomics program within their company. Following is an Action Plan you can use today, to take control of Ergonomic issues in your company, and leave the Whack-a-Mole approach behind. For a deeper discussion on how to implement this program you can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Proactive Approach to ERGONOMICS:
Build a business case on the value of the PROACTIVE approach to Ergonomics. Leverage the resources that are available from OSHA, NIOSH, National Bureau of Labor & Statistics and academia – Cornell, UCLA and others. Using your company’s historical OSHA recordable data; build an air-tight case for why the proactive approach is better business. Focus on the bottom line impact.
With your business case in hand – pitch Executive leadership and secure commitment to a long-term Ergonomic program.
Ensure Ergonomics is integrated into your fiscal planning cycle; the program must be integrated into your Environmental Health & Safety strategy. The EHS community may also need to be sold on the approach; share your business case.
Identify Ergonomic consulting resource for support of activity (in most cases companies do not have resident expertise). Potential partner should have deep experience in task assessment and redesign across all company environments (Manufacturing, Material Handling, Warehousing, Office, Laboratory, Field etc). In addition, review firm’s methodology, ensure actions measurable (as you will be asked to demonstrate program value at some point – be ready for this – put onus on consultant/partner). Talk with current and past clients.
Action 5.0 – Getting Started
5.1 – Build a Communication Plan around the launch and ongoing merchandising of your Ergonomic program. Included in this plan – Introduction to Ergonomics training for all employees (baseline understanding and value of Ergonomics), Company Champions Program – identify internal Ergonomic program Champions by functional area.
5.2 – Launch program with company-wide Pain & Discomfort Survey. It’s purpose – isolate work environments, tasks and employee categories with injury markers. Outcome – map out high/medium/low risk tasks – permits company to prioritize and align investments
5.3 – Isolate high risk tasks for assessment & redesign – launch Ergonomics work…
Building support and positive momentum is central to getting in front of Ergonomic issues. If you have any questions, we’re here to help!
Some valuable links to assist you in building your Ergonomics business case:
Puget Sound Human Factors & Ergonomics Society Chapter Cost Benefit Analysis Calculator – http://bit.ly/PugetHFESCalc
Cornell Ergonomics ROI Calculator – http://bit.ly/CornellROI
OSHA eTools – Computer Workstations – http://bit.ly/OSHAeTools
NIOSH – http://bit.ly/NIOSHErgo
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