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Ergonomics often comes up as an uncertain and vague topic, where musculoskeletal disorder (MSD) risks aren’t clearly identified and solution effectiveness is difficult to gauge. Most ergonomics discussions begin after an MSD occurs, or when someone shows up with a sore back.

But how do you know that you need to implement an ergonomics program before that happens?

Allow me to decode some indicators to make ergonomics more actionable and less abstract.

Ergonomics helps with more than just injuries.

To understand whether you need to implement ergonomics, it’s important to first understand the benefits that good ergonomics can bring to an organization. Beyond easing the sprains and strains from MSDs commonly associated with the science, ergonomics also positively impacts productivity, process effectiveness, general comfort and contentment, and the safety culture at an organization.

What this really means is, even if you don’t have frequent injuries associated with material handling or repetitive strains, it can still be financially and structurally beneficial to your organization to improve ergonomics.

Markers that could mean you need more help in the realm of ergonomics include:

  • High injury rate
  • High restricted days/duties rate
  • High turnover rate
  • Complaints or increased training needs at specific workstations
  • Production quantity or rate below what was expected or scheduled
  • Increasing or higher than expected percentage of product rejected by quality control
  • High ratio of wasted materials
  • Increase in number of times each part or product is handled throughout its lifecycle

Keep in mind that these are only some of the indicators that show a need to do a more thorough MSD risk assessment to discover ergonomics improvement opportunities.

Ergonomics gives a big return on investment.

The Washington State Department of Labor has completed a comprehensive review of the financial impact that ergonomics can have on business goals. The study’s findings indicate that the return on investment for an ergonomics program is consistently advantageous in accomplishing business goals to improve operation costs.

The best time to look at ergonomics is before injuries occur to prevent them from developing at all—so don’t wait for injuries to spike as a trigger to introduce proactive measures.

Want more information on assessing MSD risks and implementing ergonomics?
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