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Over the years, I have consulted with many EHS professionals about the best way to implement and sustain a corporate-wide ergonomics program. One thing is clear: even though each program and approach has been different, most companies share the common goal of reducing musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) in the workplace.

The value of ergonomics is often misunderstood by safety professionals and, as a result, their focus and efforts can be misdirected. Many companies use methods like workplace stretching and job rotation to reduce injuries—changing the person to fit the job or rotating workers among high-risk tasks.

My goals for this article, and for the session I will be presenting at the Indiana Safety Conference in March, are to define what ergonomics is and what it isn’t, and to examine the impact an effective process has on an organization. Contrary to common belief, ergonomics is about more than just reducing musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) and injury costs. It also improves both employee well-being and business performance.

Here are a few ergonomics myths and truths that you should know:

Myth: Ergonomics only improves employee well-being.

Truth: A well-implemented ergonomics process focuses on identifying risks in the workplace and improving the job to reduce them. This approach has measurable effects on product quality, process efficiency, and employee engagement.

Myth: Repetition is the biggest risk factor for developing an MSD. It has long been thought that repetition or repetitive motion is the largest contributor to injury.

Truth: Recent research has shown that forceful exertions cause more concern when assessing a job for risk.

Truth: Ergonomics has a positive impact on work performance. When jobs are easier to do, employees perform better. Simply reducing wasted motions and unnecessary activities increases throughput while reducing working fatigue. A win-win.

As you can see, a sound ergonomics program can have benefits that go well beyond health and safety. Overall, ergonomics truths have a positive impact on employee well-being and business performance, and ergonomics myths do little to reduce MSDs in the workplace or increase business performance.

For more, attend my session at the Indiana Safety Conference on Tuesday, March 2, 2020.