What is an ergonomic assessment?
Estimated reading time: 5 minutes
Table of contents:
2. Ergonomic assessment definition
3. Who performs ergonomic evaluations
4. Ergonomic assessment process
4.2. Getting to know the employee
Have you ever felt like your posture is not that good anymore? Do you think it's because of how you sit or move at your workplace? If you answer yes, an ergonomic assessment should take place. It is an evaluation through which you estimate your body position and whether the workstation is ergonomically comfortable enough to let you perform at an optimal level.
As a business owner or CEO, you can use this assessment not just to determine the conduciveness and healthiness of your workplace but also the elements of the employees' performances. For example, if an employee performs poorly because of some physical restraints, you need to check on the ergonomics of the workstation, chair, or computer. An ergonomic analysis will provide you and your employees with better working experiences. Read on to learn more about it.
Ergonomic assessment definition
Let's go deeper and define ergonomic assessment. As the boss, you must be aware of what to expect from it to choose the right ergonomics specialist for your workspace.
So what is an ergonomic evaluation? The Ministry of Electronics & Information Technology under the Government of India states that an ergonomic assessment determines the physical connection of employees to their workstations. It improves comfort and productivity in workplaces and prevents injuries due to repetitive motions. It is done by an ergonomic consultant through a virtual or onsite meeting.
Specialists can ask health-related questions, which can be about physical and mental health. Yes, the meaning of ergonomic assessment also concerns mental health because of behavior, environment, and the job.
Based on a fact sheet from the Connecticut Department of Public Health, Cumulative Trauma Disorders (CTDs) are repetitive tension injuries, movement disorders, work-related muscular and skeletal disorders, and overuse syndrome. It isn't easy to notice your employees experiencing CTDs because these are subtle and develop over time. (That's why it's called "cumulative.")
CTDs often come with the following experiences:
- mental stress
- body positions held for a long time without moving
- damaging exertions (lifting, pushing, pulling)
- lack of adequate resting time (breaks, time off)
- compression of soft tissues (often in the hands)
The above risk factors commonly affect office workers, industrial workers, housekeepers, meat packers, assemblers, etc. These jobs require repetitive and meticulous movements and are sedentary; hence, the workplaces of these occupations are recommended to undergo an ergonomic evaluation.
Who performs ergonomic evaluations
We already know there's a professional ergonomics consultant who can perform ergonomic evaluations. However, a business owner or CEO should not just hire "any" consultant to evaluate their workplace.
There are standards, like the ones set by the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador, that you should check before you hire someone because not everyone can excellently conduct ergonomics assessments. Setting standards and knowing the skills required and the specific responsibilities will help you choose a responsible, trustworthy, and empathetic consultant.
Wait, empathetic? You read that right; it sounds dramatic, but a consultant should be able to feel what the employees feel.
The following are some of the duties and characteristics of a professional ergonomic evaluation consultant:
- They offer technical and consultative expertise and respond to inquiries about policies, procedures, equipment modifications, staffing, and other things pertinent to ergonomic strategies.
- They are knowledgeable of the Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) regulations, psychology, muscular-skeletal risks, organizational policies, and program design and implementation.
- Their education or certification must be in Ergonomics or something related to nursing and physiotherapy, like occupational kinesiology, occupational therapy, design engineering, sports science, or psychology.
- They must possess problem-solving, mathematical, reasoning, analytical thinking, verbal and written English communication, interpersonal, and computer-related skills.
- They must also be willing to exert physical effort to experience what employees do.
Hiring an ergonomics consultant who can do and possess these things can give you an employee ergonomic evaluation of great value - something long-term and efficient.
Ergonomic assessment process
In every assessment, there should be an effective process. That includes the ergonomic assessment. It's not just randomly hiring an ergonomics specialist, talking with them, letting them observe, and conducting surveys and interviews about the situation of your office ergonomics. Make sure that they stick to the qualified and appropriate ergonomic assessment procedure.
The Ergonomics Society of Africa (ESSA) created a presentation about the method of ergonomic risk assessments. Based on it, workplace ergonomics evaluation should go through the following steps:
This step covers the identification of ergonomic risks and hazards, examination of the ergonomic risks and hazards, and decision on ways to eliminate them.
It usually starts with a workplace tour. The ergonomics specialist will estimate all work aspects (i.e., physical environment, work activity, organization, incident records, etc.), interview workers, and distribute survey questionnaires. An ergonomic survey entails questions about the workers' positions, postures, item locations, spaces, and more.
2. Getting to know the employee
In this step, the ergonomics specialist will identify and classify workers that are vulnerable to the risks. This step is important because every person's susceptibility level is different from another's.
They classify workers based on what they usually do. They answer the guide questions such as:
- Who among the employees often works in awkward postures?
- Who often bends?
- Who always pushes and pulls heavy loads?
- Who often lifts heavy loads?
- Who works in static postures?
Here, the ergonomics consultant determines how the risks may affect each worker. This will help them develop tailor-made changes for the employees' safety.
For example, the ergonomics consultant may tell you that your maintenance staff needs tools that are handier, ladders that are taller, and hand gears that allow them to push, lift, or pull items easily.
In this step, the ergonomics assessor lays out detailed plans, tasks, and requirements based on their evaluation.
They will present you with an evaluation form recommending appropriate modifications needed by your employees.
The last step entails the prioritization of ergonomic risks. The specialist measures each identified hazard's severity and determines which should be addressed first.
Measurement will determine which office department has the most severe hazard and should be the priority for ergonomic modifications. It will ensure your employees’ safety and health.
For your reference, you can check a sample ergonomics assessment report shared by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). It’s composed of the questionnaire, the response, and the mitigation or the solution.
The mitigation already states programs needed. For example, the question, “Have there ever been any worker complaints concerning ergonomic issues?” received the answer “Yes” from most of the respondents. Therefore, the mitigation tells them to “conduct an ergonomic job-specific assessment” and “establish an ergonomics program to reduce injury by controlling hazards.”
As you speak with an ergonomics consultant, don't hesitate to ask questions that can help you audit your resources for possible modifications as the ergonomics assessment occurs at your workplace.
An ergonomics assessment is a scientific evaluation of your workplace ergonomics, which concerns the workers' physical and mental health and safety and the workplace comfortability, and conduciveness. It is conducted by a professional ergonomist.
To prove its benefits, the Washington State Department of Labor and Industries published data showing sample costs and benefits of ergonomics. One of them took place at an insurance company on a state farm, where they modified the furniture and seating. It resulted in a 15% increase in productivity.
You see, an ergonomics assessment will allow you, the boss of your company, to provide what your employees deserve. When you are taking care of their health and well-being, they will love the business back. They will remain loyal and excel at work.