If you have been pay9ing attention to this blog over the last couple of years, I have been spending some legitimate time and blog space about safety leadership and ergonomics. There is a reason – I think these two areas are the most vital to a successful safety environment and safety culture. One is more metaphysical, as leadership isn’t necessarily tangible, while ergonomics is about the physical in helping our bodies move more efficiently so they are under less risk of injury.
Ergonomics are most effective as part of a management system, which was postulated by an author triumvirate of Walter Rostykus, Winnie Ip and Jennifer Ann Dustin, who wrote an article about ergonomics management in a recent issue of Professional Safety magazine. We have had a series of posts recapping this article, including a part about the draft standard known as ISO 45001 and discussing the necessary elements that should be present in an effective ergonomics management system.
The authors reveal that the Shewhart cycle (plan-do-check-act) would be a good choice in the context of ergonomics in relation to ISO 45001. We’ll take a quick look at the “plan” part of Shewhart in this post, then address the “do” aspect later.
Of course, any safety system doesn’t just happen; it entails a plan that takes into account an action to be taken. It is all about making a road map that will get you to the destination you seek, while recognizing the detours and roadblocks along the way.
The first priority, the authors wrote, is to diagnose areas where to move on what are called “risk opportunities” and address them to mitigate them as quickly as possible. This is considered an evaluative practice in which we measure and assess the level of risk exposure that our workers have to various musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs). The good news is, most hazards that contribute to MSDs are already identified, and we just have to put forth numbers and data that pertain to the availability of these risks in our own workplace, and that should give us the ammunition we need to strategize a plan that will address problem areas of greatest interest.
Part of this process involves going through the various workplaces and specific work tasks of workers in each place and to develop a comprehensive risk assessment about MSDs among each of the workers and their workplaces, not to mention being as specific as a body part that is under highest risk of injury based on the environment and activity. Once this is developed, what has been found to be effective is to use stoplight colors (red, green, yellow) and associate each to behaviors, activities and work for each of the regions of the body that are at highest or lowst risk of injury based on the work being performed. Those areas where a risk is above a certain “tolerable” standard , using a numerical scale.
As it is often said, knowledge is power.
Develop objectives and plans to reduce risk based upon the information gathered about problem areas and where and when you will take action on those challenges. Gathering this information through evaluation and assessment can help build a “map’ of risks in a workplace, so safety officers and supervisors can know where to focus resources on what are prevalent priorities and hazards.
Next time, we’ll look into the “do” aspect of the Shewhart cycle and how it can be applied to ergonomics, though I am sure you are smart enough to figurre it out for yourself.