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New ergonomic tools also help traditional assessments

11 March 2013

Technology has made office ergonomic risk management much quicker and cheaper for the majority of simple problems.

But it has also made one-on-one assessing more efficient and effective. Jon Abbott reports.
Like everything else in the modern world, the way we manage comfort and safety at work is changing. In fact, it’s changing fast.

Not that long ago, ergonomics was a new word – a word being applied to the design and set-up of the workplace and the management of comfort, health and safety among workers.
Ergonomics, it has now been shown, improves productivity and morale and companies take a lot less persuading to invest in the right equipment and training to get these valuable benefits.

In the early days, office ergonomics programmes were managed by calling in an expert. Either a consultant came in and carried out one-to-one assessments with employees, or a member of staff was trained to carry out the face-to-face meetings.

The expert would work out the challenges faced by an individual and come up with ways of helping them. Inappropriate equipment would be identified and replaced; the right kit would be adjusted properly and the user trained in its correct use; the behaviour of the employee would be assessed and issues such as posture and rest breaks would be addressed.

All of this work still goes on, of course, and it works very well. But the problem is, it takes up a lot of time and resources, especially in big companies where thousands of employees might need to be looked after.

Thankfully, there are now a number of solutions available to employers that will help them to give workers a great level of support, without the need to have face-to-face assessments all the time, every time. One-on-ones are still important but a lot can now be achieved using technology such as online surveys, webinars and online training.

Let’s look at online surveys first. In order to effectively manage ergonomic issues, a company needs to know what those issues are. A simple online survey will do this. To find out what bothers your employees, all you have to do is ask them.

The best online questionnaires will highlight the most important concerns and give you a clear idea of the needs of your workplace.
This kind of exercise will help you to work out what really matters to most people, rather than the ones who complain most or have the greatest influence.

E-learning is a particularly powerful way of raising awareness among employees and engaging them in the process. They will take more responsibility for their own comfort and health and improve their workstations and behaviour before injuries arise. They are also much more likely to continue to look after themselves in future.

The best e-learning and online training programmes limit themselves to the concepts that are easiest to put into action. The balance required between content and time means that simple ideas and easy changes that bring about quick benefits are very well suited to e-learning programmes. Good systems also use short exercises and tests to keep the participant’s attention and interest levels high.

Both online surveys and e-learning will generate a lot of very useful data. Information gathered from these technologies can be managed in such a way to provide you with an understanding of the situation and issues across the organisation and at individual worker level. A good system will allow interested parties to analyse people data quickly and easily.

The organisation overview might allow you to identify bulk equipment needs very quickly, so a purchasing plan can be drawn up to help you to negotiate the best possible deal on the purchase price. It will always be cheaper to buy ten display screen monitors and 12 chairs together, rather than one at a time.

Using the people data, individuals can be ranked high, medium and low risk so that the right people can get the most appropriate level of intervention. And when the high risk workers get their face-to-face, the assessor is given information about the issues they are facing and knows that they have already attempted to address those issues themselves. This level of preparedness makes the one-on-ones much more efficient and effective.

Online surveys and assessments will help you to manage most workplace ergonomic issues and these tend to be the simple ones. However, there will always be cases that require traditional methods of intervention.

If an employee is already suffering from a musculoskeletal disorder, discomfort or pain, they will need to be seen and assessed in person. So will people with more complex equipment needs. An online solution can’t deal with more challenging issues. In these situations, empathy and discussion of the problems plays a very important role. Human interaction reinforces the message of care and support in a way that an online programme sometimes can’t.

The very best ergonomic programmes are carefully planned and feature the correct mix of technology and traditional assessments. And don’t forget, ergonomics is done with people, not to people. Done right, office ergonomics help to create happier, healthier more motivated and productive employees, and that’s a great starting point for handling a fast changing modern business world.
Contact Cardinus today to discuss your ergonomic training and assessment requirements on 0207 469 0200 or email info@cardinus.com.

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