Thursday, May 22, 2008

Ergonomics Risk Assessment Determining When Why Who and How You Should Perform One Part II Who and When

Ergonomic assessment strategy ...

"Who should perform an ergonomics risk assessment? The answer to this question depends on the reason for the assessment. An ergonomics risk assessment tool can, in many cases, be implemented by any person within a facility with the proper amount of training. In fact, for ergonomics teams that primarily are made up of employees, the use of ergonomics risk assessment tools provides a valuable method of increasing the sophistication by which the team members evaluate a job.

When considering why to perform an ergonomics risk assessment, these reasons can be lumped into categories that guide us toward who should perform the assessment. Consider the first two questions that an ergonomics risk assessment tool addresses: “Which jobs pose the greatest risk?” and “How much is too much?”

These questions revolve around the core of ergonomics, and are a level of training that would be of value to anyone. Therefore, if an ergonomics risk assessment tool is used primarily as a training tool, then anyone can use this tool with sufficient training. The key here is that the tool provides a means of taking the analyst from a basic, subjective approach to a more quantitative approach (i.e. they learn something). The use of the advanced tool is not an absolute necessity in this situation, but it helps the analyst see how ergonomics stressors and exposure factors combine to help predict risk. This knowledge will improve any subjective assessment that an analyst performs in the future.

The next two questions that an ergonomics tool addresses present a different consideration of who should perform the assessment: “How can improvements be shown and evaluated?” and “How can ergonomics efforts be documented?”

When answering questions like these, accuracy becomes a much larger consideration. Therefore, the person performing the assessment has a higher level of significance. Consider the level of importance of data that is used to justify an ergonomics project or determine the work-relatedness of an injury in a workers’ compensation case. In situations like these, where financial and/or legal factors come into play, the need for experienced and trained analysts is evident. In cases where a project is costly with respect to capital changes or the possibility of a deposition or trial is looming, a company may want to consider the use of a professional ergonomist.
How Should You Perform an Ergonomics Risk Assessment?

Considering the number of ergonomics risk assessment tools that are available in books, peer-reviewed literature and from various companies and consultants, it is impossible to provide instructions on how to perform each of these assessments. Instead, there are three simple recommendations that one should follow when choosing a tool that will help achieve accurate and valuable outcomes.

Read original articles and/or documentation to understand the design, use, and intent of the ergonomics tool – One of the most common errors that is made with an ergonomics risk assessment tool is using the tool incorrectly and for the wrong purpose. When an ergonomics tool is developed it usually is with a specific purpose, such as evaluating a specific type of activity (e.g. lifting, posture, hand activity, etc.) or a specific work environment. The validity of the tool may be compromised if used outside of these conditions, so it is important to know the boundaries.

One of the challenges that often is evident when reviewing the information about an ergonomics tool is that there is insufficient information to determine the exact way in which the tool should be implemented. Further, it is impossible to determine what to do when attempting to apply the tool in non-optimal conditions (i.e., What do you do when a novel situation develops?). One would expect that a tool presented in a peer-reviewed article would not fall into this same category, but in many cases, articles primarily focus on the theory and design of the tools and not their practical applications."    (Continued via Occupational Hazards, David M. Brodie)    [Ergonomics Resources]

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