Does your workplace have ergonomic issues? Just ask your employees!

By Jennifer Stroschein
The Business Journals

A key step in performing a job-hazard analysis is to obtain information about the job and its problems from employees who perform the actual task or tasks.

Much has been written at the federal enforcement and the academic levels about the value of employee participation in the identification of risk factors and controls at the hazard analysis stage. Studies have shown substantial improvements in health and safety after participatory ergonomics programs are implemented.

Why ask

Employees need to be involved in the analysis and control process because no one knows the job better than the person who does it. They have the best understanding of what it takes to perform each task in a job, and what parts of the job are the hardest to perform or pose the greatest difficulties. Also, the people who are closest to doing the work often have the best practical, no-cost or cost-effective solutions.

What to ask

There is no particular method to use when talking to employees about the tasks they perform. You may do something as simple as talk with them informally while observing the job being performed, or talk with them as part of a regular staff or production meeting. Another method, to have affected employees fill out a survey form or questionnaire, can be an effective tool for gathering important job information from employees who do the job.

Whatever method you choose, be sure to pose the questions in a way to minimize bias. For example, the following questions tend to elicit useful information and do not prejudge the answer:

  • Are parts of your job more difficult than others?
  • Do parts of your body hurt more when performing certain tasks or functions?
  • Could you recommend improvements to the job?

Talking to employees to get insight into the job requirements provides information that only those who work at the job can provide. It is often the best way to identify the causes of the problem and to identify the most cost-effective solutions to it.

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