Uploaded by Ivan Ivanov

7 Steps for Conducting Ergonomic Assessments

7 Steps for Conducting Ergonomic Assessments in Lower-Risk Facilities
July 31st, 2018
EHS managers of lower-risk facilities know that providing a safe, healthy and comfortable work
environment is key to employee productivity and engagement. As a result, many EHS programs
include an ergonomic component to mitigate safety risks while enhancing employee well-being.
Unfortunately, as companies expand operations to new locations, hire new staff, and more to more
flexible workspaces, ergonomics can get lost in translation.
The good news is that an ergonomic assessment of your co-work or leased office, data center,
warehouse, retail location, or other lower-risk workplace can point out areas of concern, which can
help you launch a pilot program or re-energize your current program.
Ergonomic assessments are an objective study of how employees work. The assessments help
identify the ergonomic risks such as repetitive tasks that can cause strains, improper work area
setup, and improper use of tools, which can result in the development of work-related
musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs).
If you’re planning on tackling this process yourself, consider the following steps as you craft and
execute your assessment so you can gather the insights you need to build or refine your ergonomics
1. Review existing data
Step one to crafting or improving your ergonomics program involves taking a history. You need to
establish a baseline understanding of work-related incidents and injuries that have already occurred.
Review injury and illness logs, workers’ compensation reports, first aid logs, accident and near-miss
investigation reports, insurance company reports, safety committee meeting minutes, and any
worker reports of problems.
This will allow you to identify common issues, injuries and complaints--and to zero in on high-risk
departments or job types. This, in turn, will establish a data-driven benchmark that will be important
for measuring success in the future.
2. Establish a standard ergonomic assessment method
Your organization will likely conduct initial and follow-up ergonomic assessments to measure
progress and identify improvement opportunities. As a result, it’s important to establish a standard
assessment method and set of tools so you can compare apples to apples and accurately identify risk
Create an ergonomic assessment brief that outlines your methodology framework and tools for
collecting both subjective and objective data. Then use the brief as a guide to ensure each
assessment follows the same set of tools and documentation methods. Some tools to consider using
WISHA Caution Zone Checklist
WISHA Hazard Zone Checklist
WISHA Lifting Calculator or NIOSH Lifting Equation (check for phone apps!)
Rapid Upper Limb Assessment (RULA)
Rapid Entire Body Assessment (REBA)
Snook Tables
Hand-Arm Vibration (HAV) Calculator
3. Get a real-life picture of your facility
If you want your ergonomics program to be successful, you need to have on-the-ground knowledge
of the environment that employees are working in.
Consider doing a Gemba walk of the facility in question. Get a glimpse of workers in action by going
on-site to collect subjective observations. Take extensive notes, and consider capturing photos and
video to help you remember specific details and generate improvement ideas.
If you have facilities spread around the world, engage a global EHS consultant with ergonomics
experience. A consultant offers broad-based knowledge and expertise, and can not only conduct the
assessment, but also provide the analysis--giving you actionable next steps. Many EHS managers
have no travel budget, but have global responsibilities. While hiring a consultant is an additional cost
upfront, it gets around this issue and gets you the data you need to make informed decisions.
4. Engage employees and get direct feedback
During an on-site visit, you’ll certainly need to hang back and observe workers in their natural
habitats—but you should also take time to talk to them. Involving them in the process can lend you
detailed, first-hand insights on how you can improve their work life, as well as strengthen your
company’s safety culture.
Get the conversation going by explaining your mission and asking them questions about what they
do, how they do it, how long they do it, who trained them, how they work, training standards, and
how they feel about their environment. Some questions you could ask include:
Does your job involve heavy or strenuous lifting?
Do you experience discomfort while doing your job?
Do you get easily fatigued when performing your job?
What do you see as the biggest safety issue with your job?
How would you solve the issue?
What would make you more comfortable in your workspace?
Another way to gain employee insights is through a comfort survey. A comfort survey will allow
employees to anonymously or openly share how they feel about their working conditions and any
issues they’re having.
5. Gather objective data
Once you’ve reviewed hard incident and injury data, and observed and engaged employees in their
work setting, it’s time to move forward with the more objective portion of the assessment process.
Use the insights you’ve already collected to create a comprehensive, prioritized list of job tasks and
departments that need to be evaluated. Then pair that list with your chosen methodology and tools
to start your objective evaluation.
6. Assess data and prioritize risk
Once you’ve collected both subjective and objective data and insights, it’s time to analyze what
you’ve learned so you can identify job hazards and mitigation opportunities.
Begin by reviewing the information in its entirety, taking note of insights that stand out. Dive into
each job type or department category to get a more granular picture of risks and potential
opportunities. Then create a prioritized list of task risks and mitigation opportunities to tackle in the
short-term and long-term. Some questions to ask yourself throughout this process are:
What is the injury risk associated with this job type?
What is the severity of injury?
What is the likelihood of injury?
Can the risk be mitigated or reduced?
7. Craft a plan to implement mitigation
Now that your analysis is complete, it’s time to put what you’ve learned into action. Bring your EHS
team, safety committee, and/or operations management together and use your list to flesh out a
strategy for addressing risks and mitigation opportunities. Some questions to consider during your
discussion might include:
What is our implementation timeline and is it realistic? (It's best if you are prepared with an initial
suggested timeline.)
What is the timeframe for addressing low, medium, and high risk concerns?
How will we measure success at reducing risk?
What training and resources are needed to implement, manage, and refine our ergonomics
What other stakeholder groups should we engage?
How will we communicate our plan and stay on track?
There’s no one-size-fits-all approach to workplace safety in lower-risk environments, but these steps
will help you make a plan to reduce risk at your organization.
Learn how Antea Group’s RiskRight EHS service can provide you with tailored support—from
ergonomic assessments to full ergonomic program development.