For those of you who have been reading this blog for any amount of time, you know I make no bones about ergonomics and its importance in the workplace in developing safe and healthy habits. I just recently wrote a whole series of posts about ergonomics management systems in the workplace. So if you know about that, then you would not be surprised to find me writing about a recent survey about ergonomics in the workplace.
I was fascinated to find out the results of this survey, conducted by Aon, abut I was disappointed in the apparent disconnect between what is said about ergonomics and what the practice seems to be in these various worksites. I have ben so encouraged and hopeful by what I was seeing, hearing and witnessing, but this survey raises some eyebrows for me in terms of whether ergonomics is more about lip service to safety than actual safety.
What the survey found was that there is a definite gulf between organizations and program managers in terms of the best ways to tell how effective an ergonomics program really is, and until that gulf is bridged, there may be a rela problem getting ergonomics to work. For example, one group of people seem to like trailing indeicators to wshow the efficac of ergonomics, while the other group rates lagging indicators low on the scale, instead favoring mor proactive metrics like task-analysis and discomfort/symptom reports as more valuable indicators.
The survey asked some questions regarding ergonomics programs in workplaces, such as:
- What is the motivation behind the program?
- Who has primary responsibility for the ergonomics pogram?
- What metrics are used in measurements, and are they showing to be the most effective?
Based on this line of questioning, here are some of the important takeaways from the survey.
- 7 in 10 of those surveyed said that worker safety was the primary motivation fo their ergonomcis intiatives.
- About 1 in 4 surveyed said they did not have a designated person for oversight of the ergonomics program.
- 1 in 3 surveyed said they use proactive metrics like task analysis or other assessment tools. (I don’t know about you, but this seems to be a disconnect with the first bullet point; if worker safety is so important in 70 percent of organizations, but why do half that many use proactive tools to determine effectiveness?)
- Only about 2 in 10 report that an assessment of the program is conducted only after an incident occurs. (This means that of those that most of those who conduct assessments conduct them either regularly or not at all. A mixed answer, for sure.)
There are still a couple of unanswered questions in this survey, but what is gleaned from the results does not give me much confidence that organizations are taking ergonomics seriously. I am hopeful that companies reviewed the results and take some of the findings to heart and made a decision to be consistent – either don’t put ergonomics in place if you don’t blelieve in it, or put all your efforts into seeing it succeed. Lip service is never a good idea when it comes to worker safety.