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Solution Summary: Participatory Ergonomics Program

A participatory ergonomics program identifies and analyzes musculoskeletal injuries as well as implement and evaluate effective control options.

Description:

Participatory Ergonomic Programs is an adminstrative control that often include five overlapping steps: 1) identification of musculoskeletal disorders and workplace hazards that may cause these problems, 2) analysis of workplace hazards, 3) development of solutions to reduce or eliminate hazards, 4) implementation of solutions, and 5) evaluation of the solution's effectiveness. In order to successfully complete all steps, workers may receive training on workplace hazards, musculoskeletal disorders that could be caused by these hazards, and the development of solutions.

In contrast to the expert approach, participatory ergonomics has been adopted by many companies to aid in the control of workplace hazards. Participatory ergonomics has its origins in continuous quality improvement and total quality management approaches. Worker participation emphasizes the particular knowledge workers have of their environment and occupational tasks, and may promote better acceptance of workplace changes among front-line workers.

Participatory Ergonomic Programs often include five overlapping steps: 1) identification of musculoskeletal disorders and workplace hazards that may cause these problems, 2) analysis of workplace hazards, 3) development of solutions to reduce or eliminate hazards, 4) implementation of solutions, and 5) evaluation of the solution's effectiveness. In order to successfully complete all steps, workers may receive training on workplace hazards, musculoskeletal disorders that could be caused by these hazards, and the development of solutions.

Participatory Ergonomic Programs are initially put into operation with the assistance of an occupational safety and health specialist. These specialists provide training and technical expertise, and types of specialists include ergonomists, industrial hygienists, industrial engineers, physical therapists, occupational therapists, occupational medicine physicians, and construction company safety officers.  A long-term goal is to develop "in-house expertise" with the specialist only acting as a consultant as needed.

Numerous investigators have reported the benefits of participatory ergonomic programs including reductions in work-related musculoskeletal symptoms; MSD claims rates and claims costs; sick leave and absenteeism; work stress; and exposure to workplace hazards. Participatory ergonomics has also been associated with improvements in worker satisfaction, productivity, product quality, awareness of company goals, and communication. Participatory Ergonomic Programs have been used effectively in several construction environments and have been known to increase morale among workers.


Risks Addressed:

Physical hazards in the workplace such as heavy lifting and frequent manual material handling.

Injury risk is reduced by increasing management and worker awareness that hazards exist, identifying specific hazards, and creating worker and management commitment to finding and implementing solutions. Programs address physical hazards in the workplace such as heavy lifting and frequent manual material handling.

Physical hazards in the workplace such as heavy lifting and frequent manual material handling.

Injury risk is reduced by increasing management and worker awareness that hazards exist, identifying specific hazards, and creating worker and management commitment to finding and implementing solutions. Programs address physical hazards in the workplace such as heavy lifting and frequent manual material handling.


How Risks are Reduced:

Injury risk is reduced by increasing management and worker awareness that hazards exist, identifying specific hazards, and creating worker and management commitment to finding and implementing solutions. Programs address physical hazards in the workplace such as heavy lifting and frequent manual material handling.


Quality of Evidence (Risk Reduction):

  • Independent published studies have found a risk reduction.
  • Manufacturers, vendors, or worksites have reported a risk reduction.
  • Safety and health experts believe there is a risk reduction.

Quality of Evidence Explanation (Risk Reduction):

Numerous investigators have reported the benefits of participatory ergonomic programs including reductions in work-related musculoskeletal symptoms; musculoskeletal disorder claims rates and claims costs; work stress; and exposure to workplace hazards. 


Effects on Productivity:

Participatory Ergonomic Programs have been shown to improve productivity and product quality.


Quality of Evidence (Effects on Productivity):

  • Independent published studies have found an increase in productivity.
  • Manufacturers or vendors have reported an increase in productivity.
  • Safety and health experts believe there is an increase in productivity.

Quality of Evidence Explanation (Effects on Productivity):

Improvements in productivity associated with participatory ergonomics programs include reductions in sick leave and absenteeism; increased worker satisfaction, productivity, product quality, awareness of company goals, communication. Participatory Ergonomic Programs have been used effectively in several construction environments and have been known to increase morale among workers.


Contributors:

Dan Anton, PT, PhD, ATC – University of Iowa


Hazards Addressed:

 

Availability

Thomas E. Bernard Ergonomics Analysis Tools
Thomas E. Bernard's website has a host of practical ergonomics tools that could be used for a participatory ergonomics program in construction environments. http://personal.health.usf.edu/tbernard/ergotools/index.html or contact 1-813-974-6629

Human Factors and Ergonomics Society
Occupational health and safety specialists are available to consult throughout the US. Names of specific consultants are available on the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society website. http://www.hfes.org or contact 1-310-394-1811

 

Return on Investment

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