If the benefit of an ergonomics programme is already proven, then why aren’t we acting on it?

DO you ever wonder why it is so difficult to engage management in the cost benefits of having a robust ergonomic programme given all of its “PROVEN” benefits?

You would think it would, given the fact that ergonomics has been PROVEN to reduce MSD costs, improve productivity, improve quality of work and quality of life, improve employee engagement and create a better safety culture. Industry across the board should be clamouring to be the first to have the most proactive solution-driven ergonomics programme.

Building a team between HR, safety, facilities and wellness would be a no brainer and Total Worker Health would be at the helm. Instead corporations are silos and it is PROVEN that they are experiencing:

  • Increased cost both direct and indirect for MSD claims
  • Sluggish productivity
  • Less than optimal quality of work
  • Employee dissatisfaction
  • Constant struggle to engage employees
  • A culture of safety is on the bottom instead of the top of the corporate list

As Yogi Berra once said “You can observe a lot by watching” and it seems that no one is “watching”. If they did they would observe that there is so much they can do to have an impact in creating a culture of safety, while cutting costs, improving productivity, engaging employees, improving quality, and they don’t have to spend time trying to prove it. IT IS ALREADY PROVEN.

So one of the potential reasons for this sluggish pace is the inadequate integration of human factors and ergonomic principles and methods in these efforts. Employee safety and MSDs are complex and rarely caused by one factor or component of a work system. Health care would benefit from human factors and ergonomic evaluations to systematically identify the problems, prioritise the right ones, and develop effective and practical solutions.

Why do ergonomic initiatives fail?

  • Typically owned by a small group or one person in a corporation
  • Not given priority
  • Flavour of the month
  • Feels like it is imposed by management
  • Stuck in the traditional way of doing things
  • Chasing injuries
  • And I am sure a host of other reasons

So what does a successful ergonomic initiative look like?

A successful ergonomic initiative will have support from management, participation from all employees, willingness to look at things differently and enthusiasm for the continuous improvement process.

Sounds easy, right? Not! However, the proof is in the pudding and as millennials enter the market I do believe proving the already proven benefits will no longer be the struggle. Millennials as they enter the workforce will be inviting their pre-existing MSDs to come with them for some on-the-job training and the trend for MSDs to be one of the top 3 cost drivers for corporations will continue.

However millennials also bring with them:

  • Team work/group work/group participation
  • Creativity and the ability to look at things differently
  • Ability to multi-task
  • Purposeful action
  • A sense of the wider community
  • Technology embedded
  • Enthusiastic about improving the process

And finally, the recipe for supporting a successful ergonomic initiative

So as millennials bring their habits and injuries to the workforce, help them understand where their discomfort and injuries come from. If you show them the proof that their habits will have created their MSDs they will be the most proactive group to incorporate ergonomic awareness and education and use what they have learned as a motivation for change. They will observe and watch. They will be proactive and community minded. They will move and be healthy! They will prove that we Boomers have the proven solution!

Donna Defalco is a consultant and wellness programme developer with over 30 years of experience in
musculoskeletal health and stress related disease. President of The Health Enhancement Company
she overseas on-site wellness and development around ergonomics issues to national and international
Fortune 500 companies. You can find her on LinkedIn here.

This article features in our risk industry magazine, Cardinus Connect. This fantastic magazine is available for free. To get it, simply head here and sign up.

We supply ergonomics software to thousands of the largest organisations in the world. Why not take a look at our best-selling DSE risk assessment software Healthy Working for more information on our software?

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