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“Do you recommend that my ergonomics teams be cross-functional? Or does that dilute the team’s focus?” We get this question often. There are several considerations here. Before creating a team, you first want to think about its purpose, which is to conduct risk assessments, identify solutions, and lead improvement efforts. The team should also be working toward an overall MSD risk reduction goal. To make sure your ergonomics team includes the right people, we recommend a cross-functional team made up of members from the following groups:

Operators – These are the people that perform the job and understand the constraints of improvements. They are the experts, and can provide insight into how the jobs are done.

Safety – Usually, ergonomics is tied to key performance indicators for the safety department in some way. Members of this group are typically involved in incident investigations and improvement implementations, so it’s important that they play a role in the job improvement process.

Engineering – The engineering group can help identify risk factors in new and existing equipment. They are also likely to be involved with more complex improvements. As your ergonomics process moves from reactive to proactive, involve your engineers so that they can “build in” good design up front.

Supervisors and managers – Supervisors and managers play an important role in getting the resources and support necessary to conduct risk assessments and leading improvement activities within their areas.

Purchasing/procurement – People in purchasing can act as gatekeepers to ensure that any new equipment that comes into the facility is low risk and meets the requirements for a given application.

In addition to these roles, your ergonomics team should involve the right individuals. Team members should be reliable, participative, innovative, results-oriented, communicative, knowledgeable, and skilled. No matter who is on the team, it is crucial that they are properly trained and have adequate time and resources to participate.