Safety Culture: The Ergonomics of Change

//Safety Culture: The Ergonomics of Change

Safety Culture: The Ergonomics of Change

Robert Pater is at it again.

The prominent author of several safety-leadership and safety-culture articles in such vehicles as Professional Safety magazine, has struck again with his latest entry, which discusses the power of commitment to a safety culture change in the workplace.

Pater co-wrote his most recent article with colleague Ron Bowles, discussing the success of commitment to improving ergonomic safety in workplaces, what it means in results and how their successes can be duplicated and multiplied.

Ergo, the Ergonomics

Ergonomics have been known to be a cause, but also a remedy, for many soft-tissue and musculoskeletal injuries that can be nagging problems and cause time-loss events from the workplace. Even small strains and sprains can affect a worker’s ability to perform at high efficiency, and some injuries can be precursors to something more serious later.

Ergonomics have come to the fore in many ways, what with the development of ergonomic chairs and desks and especially keyboards and mouses to work with computers. Innovations continue in this area, as there are occupational therapists and consultants who specialize in ergonomics and make suggestions for changes in the office to prevent these kinds of injuries, not just provide training to treat these effects after the fact.

A Few Case Studies

If you are one who wants to improve your safety and reduce your incident rates, one of the effective ways to start is through making some ergnomic changes with many of your workers. Small steps in changing the culture can mean big rewards.

How big? Consider some of these examples, which Pater and Bowles mention in their recent Professional Safety piece:

  • Honda of Canada saw its workplace injury rate drop by more than a third in a single year.
  • U.S. Steel, depending on department, saw its sprains-and-strains rate decrease from as little as 40 percent to as much as 55 percent.
  • Over two years, Orbital ATK saw its ergonomic injuries fall 40 percent the first year and nearly another 30 percent the second year. Translated – for every 100 injuries in Year Zero, there were 60 injuries in Year One and just 43 injuries in Year Two – a total reduction of nearly 60 percent.

Pater and Bowles want to be clear – these aren’t cherry-picked case studies. Many companies see these kinds of returns right after making ergonomics a priority in safety. These weren’t done by accident or good luck; they took deliberate effort, good planning and good timing.

Different, but the Same in 3 Key Ways

And while all the companies are different from each other, they achieved similar success with some differences in approach, but also some vital similarities that can be matched by any company – even yours.

It’s self-evident that each company mentioned above will have its own superficial approach to improving ergonomics and reducing those related injuries – there is no one-size-fits-all panacea. However, Pater and Bowles did note in each company that their various cultures hit on three “triggers,” as they call them, for great success in ergonomic safety, not just in the immediate and short-term but also in a sustainable way. We’ll briefly introduce them here, then go into more depth with each in the next post:

  1. Workforce energy. This is about getting the rank-and-file to buy into the new safety culture and encourage it for themselves both at work and off the clock. Without that enthusiasm, even the best safety practices will go out the window.
  2. Laser-like focus. These companies don’t have the most or the best resources, but they made do by getting everyone engaged to the highest level possible, knowing that a focus of resources will do the most effective work rather than tring to cover a little of everything.
  3. Advanced skills.  This is more than just basic practices that keep workers compliant so they are doing the right thing while being “watched.” This is about changing the mind-set to a level that what workers do becomes habitual, yet bring about immediate results that workers can observe.

In the next post we’ll dig a little deeper into these three “triggers” and how they key changes in expectations and the safety mind-set at a company.


2017-03-13T14:25:34+00:00 March 14th, 2017|Safety Matters|