"Personal experience shows that the companies that have the best workplace ergonomics have set clear goals for ergonomic conditions. House ergonomic specifications are a fine way to express these goals.
In my experience, it's uncommon to see much effort toward in-house standards for new equipment. Some companies understand the need, but there are plenty that focus on committees that mainly redesign existing equipment and answer employee complaints.
Attempting to retrofit newly installed equipment is doing it the hard way. No engineer or plant manager wants to hear that equipment that has been carefully designed, budgeted for, built and installed now needs revisions due to lack of advance specifications.
It’s far less expensive to design in ergo features at the start of a project than to retrofit them after completion. It also makes use of our in-house talent to give the experienced, educated designers a chance to build-in ergonomics instead of asking an ergonomics committee to try to find and correct after the fact.
Some states have existing ergonomics regulations, so that is a good place to start. In the absence of governmental instructions, in-house standards can be developed based on available ergonomics research.
Humantech has compiled quite a lot of excellent information in its “Handbook of Ergonomic Design Guidelines.” It’s available along with several other publications at http://www.humantech.com. Federal OSHA's 1910.900 Table W-1 assembled a wide range of ergonomic research into a single concise table. The standard is long gone now and won't be coming back, but the table still has its uses.
Here is an example of a simple approach to in-house standards. Knowing many ergonomics programs depend on employee involvement to build employee buy-in and improve results over the old “top-down” approach, we would choose a simplified set of standards rather than a thick volume for their accessibility.
1. Limit repetitive reaching to less than 12 inches from front of rib cage. Heavier workers will require a shorter distance – 8 inches to 10 inches – from foremost obstruction to hand destinations.
2. No lifting to load or unload pallets, or repetitive reaching for controls, with hands below knees or above shoulders. For optimum lifting and repetitive reaching at elbow height, keep distance at 35 inches to 45 inches.
3. When assembling parts or loading fixtures, work at elbow height between 35 inches and 45 inches. (The iscrepancy with No. 2 is related to percentage of cycle time spent in posture)." (Continued via EHS Today, William H. Kincaid) [Ergonomics Resources]