By Joy M. Ebben, Ph.D, CPE
Human Factors and Ergonomic Specialist, IAC Industries, Goodyear, Arizona
Research clearly demonstrates that specific interventions can reduce the reported rate of work-related musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) for workers who perform high-risk tasks. Successful interventions require attention to individual, organizational and job characteristics, tailoring the corrective actions to those characteristics.
If your business does not take advantage of the opportunities made available via a cost-effective ergonomics and safety program, you lose out on two opportunities:
Approximately 85 percent of the companies planning to purchase assembly equipment (including workstations) during 1999 listed reducing direct labor as the main cost-cutting target. One component of direct labor is workers’ compensation costs. The reviewed case studies show that workers’ compensation costs were reduced by implementing safety and health programs that included ergonomic improvements.
As an ergonomics program evolves, goals need to change as well, from reducing workers’ compensation costs to increasing productivity and quality. Also, if a company justifies its ergonomic efforts on the costs related to the occurrence of an accident or illness, it usually waits until an incident occurs before ergonomic improvements are considered. Then, without additional incidents, emphasis on ergonomics diminishes.
Focusing on productivity provides a quality improvement criterion that is independent of accidents and illnesses and hopefully will ultimately prevent or reduce the rate of occurrence of those incidents. For example:
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