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A previous post concluded with the advice to manage MSD risk factors and mitigate risks properly. That brings up another question: How do you manage MSD risk factors and identify the appropriate metrics to manage your ergonomics process properly? Here are 5 key metrics to track.

A risk profile is critical to identify where exposures are high (i.e., red jobs) and must be mitigated. Although identifying red, yellow, and green jobs through assessments is important, it is essential to monitor the status and accuracy of assessments. It is not enough to complete a risk assessment without completing the remainder of the job improvement process. This includes understanding qualitative and quantitative burden to employees, discomfort, and root causes, and identifying appropriate solutions to implement. Key questions include:

  • What percentage of job tasks targeted for risk assessment have been assessed? This is an activity measure of progress toward meeting the deployment plan and schedule.
  • What percentage of jobs are low (green) risk? This focus on reducing MSD risk to a low level drives risk reduction activities (for example, engineering controls that improve ergonomics). It places attention on controlling the exceptions (red and yellow jobs).

Assessing jobs is a starting point of the ergonomic improvement process; however, the key elements are not just understanding the risk, but reducing the level of risk. Tracking root causes and improvements helps to diagnose the cause of exposure and plan workplace changes that reduce MSD risk. If, at the end of the year, your team has a lot of assessments completed, but no improvements implemented, they will not see results (reduced MSD risk). According to NIOSH, ergonomics is “designing the workplace and job demands to fit the capability of the working population.” Making changes to the workplace that reduce exposure to MSD risks will drive injury rates down. Ask yourself and the group:

  • What percentage of high and moderate jobs have had root causes identified?
  • What is the distribution of direct/root causes? Are they due to layout, equipment, process flow, packaging, or product design?
  • What percentage of identified root causes have controls addressed?
  • What percentage of controls have been implemented?

Risk reduction is the measure of results of the ergonomic improvement process. A follow-up assessment provides a second data point to determine if implemented ergonomics controls reduced the level of exposure to an acceptable level. These measures include:

  • What is the quality of improvements? What is the distribution of low-cost/high-impact to high-cost/high-impact solutions?
  • What percentage of job tasks targeted for risk assessment have been assessed? This is an activity measure of progress toward meeting the deployment plan and schedule. Yes, this is the same measure as listed above, as it will change when additional assessments are added, and follow-up assessments are completed.
  • How much (percentage) has risk been reduced? This measures the amount of reduction achieved.

Even though the team works hard to implement controls that reduce risk, the way to sustain the process is by achieving buy-in from leadership. The best way to a leader’s heart is through the bottom line. So don’t just focus on risk reduction, but return on investment (ROI). ROI is essential for demonstrating the value of investing in controls. Report the following items to leadership:

  • Did controls reduce MSD risk to an acceptable level?
  • How much has been spent on improvements (investment) and 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?

It is important to consider all metrics throughout the year versus just approaching the end of the year. Progress to goal should be monitored all year and made visible to the team. This will keep them motivated and on track. It will also allow leadership to make adjustments to resources and support. Ease in collecting, collating, sorting, and reporting information is critical for managing these measures. Software programs help generate reports and administer information about your ergonomic improvement process, freeing up time for the team to focus on finding and fixing.