Some common questions about ergonomics and how to apply it in your workplace are provided below. If you have any other questions concerning ergonomics, please contact ACE.
Many sources of information can indicate that your workplace can benefit from a good ergonomics program. Some 'triggers' that suggest that you have ergonomics related problems include the following:
Employees in your workplace, or in certain specific work areas, are experiencing soft-tissue injuries (WMSDs) such as tendonitis, back injuries, sore muscles, etc. These are all indicators that the job demands are excessive due to one or a combination of risk factors (i.e. force levels, work postures, repetitive actions, long durations, and/or psychosocial stressors).
Accidents and injuries may result from inadequate clearances, design of controls and tools, poor design of stairways, lack of appropriate lighting, poor visibility, etc. These are all ergonomics issues and contribute to many types of accidents (e.g. slips and falls, cuts and bruises, struck by/on, caught on/in injuries, etc.)
High rates of general absenteeism and/or worker turn-over. These can be indicators of high levels of physical or mental demand, poor workplace design, and/or poor organizational design.
High number of mistakes, or requirement for rework on products due to poor quality. These are often the result of difficult work processes, high workloads and fatigue, inadequate communication/information, poor visibility, etc.
Poor, or declining, productivity over the course of a shift or over a series of shifts can also mean that the work is not well designed for workers.
Aside from detecting these triggers, you should consider the benefits to be gained from applying ergonomics proactively in order to prevent problems before they occur. This is the most effective and resource-efficient way to incorporate ergonomics into your workplace! Address ergonomics:
Your first concern should be that the consultant is qualified and experienced to deal with the type of problem, concern, or issue you want to have addressed in your workplace. Qualified Ergonomists can have a variety of educational backgrounds and professional experience. To help ensure the quality of the work to be performed, you want to make sure that the Ergonomist you choose has the knowledge and experience required. It really pays to do a little work up-front, before you pay out valuable dollars and cents!
To determine whether an individual is qualified and experienced, there are several questions you need to research and/or ask:
To obtain the best long-term result for your company, do a bit of homework before you start an ergonomics project. Define your problem(s) or need for ergonomics help as clearly as you can. Quantify the existing problem in terms of how your company is being impacted... number of injuries, lost-time days,...the work area(s) or workers most affected, WCB costs, etc. Providing a consultant with this type of information can help them to zero in more quickly on where to focus their efforts. Also, you will have some baseline information to compare to after the project has been completed, allowing you to determine how effective your efforts were. Define your expectation(s) for the project. Then, together with the consultant, establish items like the following:
Your expectations should be reflected back to you by the consultant, in some form of project outline or proposal. Learn a bit about the type of problem you are experiencing, and/or the types of solutions that might exist. Visit a few websites (see Useful Links) to familiarize yourself with some of the terms. Be an informed consumer! Be prepared to actively participate throughout the project. This may take many forms:
The real answer is that it can vary tremendously! Consider the following points.
The answer to this question will depend on what province you live in ...
Newfoundland & Labradour
In Ontario there are no specific regulations related to ergonomics for most workplaces. This does not, however, mean that the Ontario Ministry of Labour (MOL) ignores ergonomic issues and risk factors. In fact, the MOL has a complement of 5 Ergonomists who are granted the authority to conduct inspections, issue and follow up on orders related to ergonomic deficiencies in all Ontario workplaces.
The MOL Ergonomists rely on a number of sections of the act when they issue an order. First and foremost they frequently issue orders under Section 25(2)(h) of Ontario's Occupational Health and Safety Act (commonly viewed as the ‘General Duty Clause'). This section specifies that the employer shall “ take every precaution reasonable in the circumstances for the protection of a worker ”. Although not named specifically, this does include ergonomic issues where an officer on investigation determines that reasonable steps are not being taken to address a hazard and the resulting risk in a workplace.
The MOL Ergonomists will also issue orders under Sections 25(2)(a), and 54(1)(f). Section 25(2)(a) requires an employer to 'provide information, instruction and supervision to a worker to protect the health and safety of the worker.' From an ergonomic point-of-view this means that workers must be informed about ergonomic risks in their workplace and they need to be provided with training that will help them to minimize or avoid these risks. Section 54(1)(f) allows the MOL Ergonomist to issue an order that requires the employer to hire an outside expert (i.e. a professional Ergonomist) to conduct an assessment of a job or task.
There are also two sections under the Regulations for Industrial Establishments that are used to issue ergonomics related orders. Section 21 states that the lighting in a work area must be designed to be 'adequate' and designed to minimize glare and shadows. This is often an issue in office or inspection workstations. Finally, Section 45 states that all items that are 'lifted, carried or moved, shall be lifted, carried or moved in such a way and with such precautions and safeguards, .... that the lifting, carrying or moving of the material, articles or things does not endanger the safety of any worker.' This section is used when dealing with manual material handling tasks (lifting, pushing, pulling, carrying, etc.) and the risk of injury (e.g. back injury) to the worker.
The MOL Ergonomists will issue orders for changes to the workplace. For example, an order may call for improvements to manual material handling conditions (e.g. lowering the weight of or changing the design of the object being handled, reducing the frequency of handling, changing the position/location of the object, or changing the position/location of the person doing the lifting.) The order may also specify that a workplace develop a compliance plan that allows the workplace to determine the best solution to a problem, and/or institute a program for ergonomic hazard identification and training.
Prince Edward Island