Applied Ergonomics Conference – Day 2 Recap

Conference ergonomics strategy slide

Ergonomics in Action was the theme of day two. The day was packed with sessions about ergonomics regulations, how companies implement ergonomics across the globe, and industry 4.0. Here’s what our team learned.

Ergonomics at Lear: Protecting the Employees and the Bottom Line
Summarized by Lauren Caris, Marketing Director

With over 160,000 employees in nearly 40 countries, Lear Corporation’s strong culture of “inclusion, innovation, and getting results the right way” has certainly influenced the Tier 1 automotive supplier’s success with workplace ergonomics. “The emphasis is on people,” explained Global VP of EHS & Sustainability Jack Nunes. Although realizing a strong payback—$3 to $4 million per year for over three years in a row—isn’t bad either.

Four years ago, over 50% of Lear’s occupational injuries were related to musculoskeletal disorder risk. Through a strategy that included gaining leadership and employee buy-in, creating a global management process with Humantech Ergonomics software, focusing on plant kaizen events, and building strong relations with US unions and European works councils, the company realized significant injury and related cost reductions and gained double-digit improvements in operational efficiencies like cycle time. Over 1,200 jobs were improved through what Nunes called “base hits.”

Lear is a recent signatory of the United Nations Global Compact and Nunes emphasized the alignment of ergonomics with some of the compact’s sustainable development goals (SDGs) including, “Decent Work & Economic Growth” and “Industry, Innovation, and Infrastructure.”

Next steps for Lear include a stronger focus on managing ergonomics upstream in product and process design, rolling out the ergonomics process further globally, and increasing supplier collaboration.

Summary of key learnings:

  • Keep it simple – empower employees with simple tools to make many small improvements that yield BIG results
  • Use successes to market your ergonomics process internally
  • Partnerships are key – from employees to suppliers to customers

Ergonomics Regulations in the United States
Summarized by Rick Barker, Senior Technical Manager

Gary Orr, CPE, OSHA, began the presentation by summarizing the US regulations and standards. Over about a 40-year history, OSHA has issued around 600 citations for ergonomics (under the General Duty Clause). Gary confirmed that companies that make a good-faith effort to address ergonomics have little risk of being issued a federal OSHA citation for ergonomics. While several state OSHAs have ergonomics requirements, California being the most notable, most of these standards are met if you follow good safety practices by investigating every injury. In the case of ergonomics standards, this applies to musculoskeletal disorders and applying the countermeasures to reduce the risk of the injury occurring again.

While federal and state OSHA standards have relatively limited demands, these organizations have many resources for implementing ergonomics improvements.

Paul Schwab, CPE, Texas Instruments, expanded the discussion to the global ergonomics regulations. Every country has the equivalent of the General Duty Clause in the US. Paul called out Mexico’s material handling standard as one of the most proscriptive international standards.

My take: Any corporate ergonomics policy or process that you establish must include enough flexibility for sites to respond to their (state or national) regulations within the framework of the overall corporate process and goals.

Ergonomics in a Global Company
Summarized by Jennifer Sinkwitts, Senior Marketing Event Manager

“Always start a meeting with bagels and cream cheese,” said Allison Stephens, CCPE, CPE, Fanshawe College London, Ontario Canada, during the session that she co-presented with Salima Ladha, CCPE, Ford Motor Company. Maintaining human connection and communication within Ford’s global team has been a key driver of its ergonomics success. “We allow people to visit before each meeting,” said Stephens. “We solve problems together because we know each other. It’s made us a true team.”

Ergonomics team members from different regions are selected as Global Matched Pairs and are required to use a consistent process for reporting results. They highlight the ergonomics issues at their site, communicate the teams’ progress, and track and communicate the daily happenings in the plant. If something is being built, for instance, the project is added to a Lessons Learned Status chart; this is a facility standard. The chart tracks each issue, root causes, improvement recommendations, prevention measures, completion dates, priority rankings, and more. The data is shared across sites and keeps the communication channels open.

Since the company has global sites, meetings are scheduled late in the evenings or the early mornings to accommodate different time zones. “We respect cultural norms and communicate in ways everyone can understand. We avoid using complex words and slang. We use videos and photos to convey concepts, encourage participants to speak at a slower rate, and type out questions in the chat field during web meetings. We also ask that presentations are shared ahead of time,” said Ladha. These strategies ensure the teams are all on the same page—it’s then that the common goals can be achieved.

Each plant has a Local Ergonomics Committee (LEC) that consists of representatives from various departments, including ergonomists, union ergonomics/safety representatives, medical, engineering, etc. They work both proactively, alongside the operators at their workstations to support new product launches, and reactively, by responding to concerns. The LECs establish annual goals based on the direction from plant leadership and Ford Corporate Ergonomics; develop action plans, which include the development of measurable objectives, and implement strategies to accomplish the goals. The job improvement cycle and the Ford Motor Company Ergonomic global standards and guidelines enable them to do this and ensure all plants are using consistent tools.

Visit the Applied Ergonomics Conference website and check out our Day 1 Recap from this year’s conference.

EHS Best Practices, Ergonomics, Industrial Ergonomics