Friday, May 12, 2006

Safety Catalyst: The Power of Incorrect Ergonomic Thinking

Paying attention to individual differences ...

"The science and art of ergonomics helps safety strategists make adjustments that bridge the gap between people and their work.

The aim of ergonomic design and/or behavior modifications is to create safer and more efficient performance, as well as boost worker satisfaction. A one-size-fits-all approach, while understandably easier to implement, is antithetical to effective ergonomic interventions, and only will help to a point of diminishing returns, in the same way that a second scissors lift brought in to sit right next to an existing one is unlikely to further reduce injuries.

Too often, we've heard of ergonomic interventions that solely are based on preprinted checklists that treated all workers as if they were identical. This doesn't make sense to me as a developer of soft-tissue injury and other prevention interventions.

Sometimes pressures to be "politically correct" would have us pretend that everyone is exactly the same, with equal risks and identical concerns. As one of my colleagues, Paul McClellan, responds when asked about the "best" way to do a job, "Best for whom? A 5-foot-6-inch, 52-year-old worker who's had previous back injuries or a newly hired, 6-foot-7-inch, 25-year-old worker with no history of being injured?"

No surprise that in addition to age, height and experience, gender differences also can affect safety. Of course, "different" doesn't mean "superior" or "inferior."   continued ...   (Via Occupational Hazards)

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