Transparent procedures and securely designed workplaces translate into increased efficiency of the entire company.
Of course, more and more arduous work on production lines or in warehouses is done for us by machines or robots. However, it is the man who remains the most important element. According to data provided by the Department of Labor in e.g. US, employees physical injuries due to the lack of ergonomics costs US taxpayers an average of $ 15-20 billion a year. At the same time, the British Occupational Safety and Health Inspectorate reports that about one million people come to the UK every year with musculoskeletal injuries resulting from non-ergonomic workplaces.
What exactly does implementing the principles of work ergonomics translate into?
1. Cost reduction
The systemic reduction of risk factors translates into fewer accidents, and thus reduces the costs associated with them.
Less accidents – less downtime during work, fewer machine repairs that are related to accidents, and greater availability and efficiency of a team of employees.
According to the American center Bureau of Labor Statistics in the USA, the average total cost of injury at work is on average $51 000 and is associated with a minimum of 12 days of absence from the employee.
2. Increased productivity
A more ergonomic workplace is a more efficient workplace. When the task requires less effort it is more convenient, and the person who is responsible for the task feels safe – If that’s a case the productivity must increase.
It is also worth paying attention to the continuity of work, which results from fewer injuries. Better organization of workplaces in cooperation with employees and the management staff will definitely facilitate the process.
Aging is also very important. In the labor market, there is a tendency of people working over 50 who, because of their age, have some natural limitations and particularly require optimization of their work place in terms of ergonomics.
3. Improving quality
On the other hand – a poorly designed workplace translates into a growing frustration of employees who feel that given activities could be performed more effectively. Frustration and fatigue sooner or later translate into the fact that mistakes are made, for which the entire company is ultimately responsible.
How to introduce the principles of work ergonomics?
1. Review risk factors
The first step to take before any other action is to review the risk factors that occur in the workplace.
The most common risk factors include:
• repetitive movements,
• movements that require high force,
• activities that require unusual body posture,
• fast movements,
• vibrations, high pressure,
• low or high temperatures.
So… gather information about the activities performed by the workers:
• weight occurring during the performance of a given activity,
• time and distance of its execution.
Check and compare these values with the current health and safety guidelines.
Specify the types of critical posture – in which the employee’s musculoskeletal system is heavily loaded, e.g. back tilting, squatting.
Prepare photos and short films in which the correct and incorrect body posture is presented during various activities.
2. Mark the non-ergonomic work stations
Nobody knows better whether a given workplace is optimal or not than a person who has a daily contact with it. Therefore, if you want to achieve the goal, it’s best to talk to team leaders and operators.
3. Check how you can increase the level of ergonomics of work without investments
Sometimes, with a few simple steps, you can significantly increase your level of security.
Analyze if you can reduce the employee’s load at a critical moment by reducing the weight of the goods being moved, reducing the distance or assigning an additional employee or equipment to a given workplace.
Develop new rules
The next step to take is to develop new policies and procedures that address the previously identified threats.
In many cases, to reduce risks, it is enough to properly train your employees and instruct them how to perform their work optimally.
Regularly update procedures
You should create a timetable for updating procedures. Your company will definitely benefit from regular reviews of workplace and threats that may occur. Do not forget about the trainings concerning safety.
4. Invest in more ergonomic workplaces
Of course, simply developing policies and procedures, or implementing cost-effective optimization is not enough. If the workplace does not meet safety requirements due to underinvestment, even the best rules or ideas will not help. Therefore, you must be ready to spend some funds on increasing ergonomics.
It is a good idea to review all of the work stations and prioritize which ones should be the first to be moderated, because of the threats they pose.
5. Involve employees to optimize the workplace
Nobody knows the risks in the workplace as well as people who works there..
How can you engage your employees?
• conducting interviews,
• analyzing the work process,
• prototype solutions should be created using cheap materials such as cardboard, and then tested with the employees,
• developing a list of all items of equipment that can contribute to increasing the efficiency and ergonomics,
• find out if employees in a given position are right / left-handed, or whether the workplace requires height adjustment.
An ergonomic workplace should:
• be adapted for smaller and larger people, with the possibility of adjustment, depending on, among others height or weight
• allow the employee to take a comfortable and stable position,
• have a chair / armchair that can be adjusted,
• allow both sitting and standing,
• if possible, use gravity instead of muscle strength to move materials,
• have a monitor adapted to your eyesight,
• have legible and clear statements concerning safety,
• have the right temperature and moisture level.
Of course, these are not all of the potential hazards that may occur in the workplace. In addition, it should be taken into account that they occur not only in warehouses or in production halls. They must also be taken into account in the office – a poorly organized workplace in such a place can lead to back injuries or, for example, carpal tunnel syndrome.