Ideas for effective ergonomic control measures can be derived from a variety of sources:
The process of implementing controls normally consists of the following steps:
Testing and evaluation verify that the proposed solution actually works and identifies any additional enhancements or modifications that may be needed. Employees who perform the job can provide valuable input into the testing and evaluation process. Worker acceptance of the changes put into place is important to the success of the intervention.
After the initial testing period, the proposed solution may need to be modified. If so, further testing should be conducted to ensure that the correct changes have been made, followed by full-scale implementation. Designating the personnel responsible, creating a timetable, and considering the logistics necessary for implementation are elements of the planning needed to ensure the timely implementation of controls.
A good idea in general is that ergonomic control efforts start small, targeting those problem conditions that are clearly identified through safety and health data and job analysis information. Moreover, the control actions can be directed to those conditions that appear easy to fix. Early successes can build the confidence and experience needed in later attempts to resolve more complex problems.
Since full-scale implementation represents change in the workplace, it's important to communicate the importance of the change to all affected employees. Education and training are important components that should not be overlooked.
A follow-up evaluation is necessary to ensure that the controls reduced or eliminated the ergonomic risk factors and that new risk factors were not introduced. This follow-up evaluation should use the same risk factor checklist or other method of job analysis that first documented the presence of ergonomic risk factors. If the hazards are not substantially reduced or eliminated, the problem-solving process is not finished.
The follow-up may also include a symptom survey, which can be completed in conjunction with the risk-factor checklist or other job analysis method. The results of the follow-up symptom survey can then be compared with the results of the initial symptom survey (if one was performed) to determine the effectiveness of the implemented solutions in reducing symptoms.
Because some changes in work methods (and the use of different muscle groups) may actually make employees feel sore or tired for a few days, follow-up should occur no sooner than 1 to 2 weeks after implementation. A month is preferable. Recognizing this fact may help avoid discarding an otherwise good solution. If the follow-up evaluation uncovers new and unexpected risk factors in the task, it may be the result of introducing too many variables into the new procedure.
Long-term indicators of the effectiveness of an ergonomics program can include:
The above-mentioned indicators offer bottom-line results in evaluating interventions that have been put into place. Other indicators may also be used that represent in-process or interim accomplishments achieved on the path to building an ergonomic program. For example, the extent of the ergonomic training given the workforce, the number of jobs analyzed for potential problems, and the number of workplace solutions being implemented.
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