Ergonomics might be defined as the scientific study of people at work (per NIOSH), but in reality, workplace ergonomics programs are established to improve the fit between workers and their workplace, not to endlessly study ergonomics problems.
The goal is to create an ergonomically sound work environment, it isn’t to measure and analyze jobs until the ergonomics risk is perfectly understood.
Non-repetitive jobs, where the worker moves between different tasks -sometimes with different materials and tools, sometimes in different environments, are particularly complex to assess and improve for any EHS hazards. Ergonomics is particularly difficult to assess, given that most ergonomics assessment tools weigh the frequency of repeated movements very heavily – they simply aren’t designed for non-cyclical work.
The shortcut for improving the ergonomics of non-repetitive jobs is simple: rely on experienced workers to point out the tasks that are uncomfortable, painful, or are just plain demanding. Conduct ride-alongs with a few workers and ask them to point out their most difficult tasks. While you’re with them, ask about what solutions they’ve come up with in the past for challenging tasks, and interview them about difficult tasks that you didn’t get to observe during your ride-long.
This process will result in a short list of important job tasks that will benefit from improved ergonomics. The next step is to come up with potential improvements. Here’s a shortcut – brainstorm with experienced workers by asking some simple questions.
|Task Involves||Questions to Ask|
|Exerting high forces while in awkward postures||• What can be done to reduce the force required? |
• Can you think of ways to improve your position while completing the task?
|Exerting high forces for extended periods of time||• What can be done to reduce the force required?|
• Can the length of time of the exertion be reduced?
|Maintaining awkward postures for extended periods of time||• Can you think of ways to improve your position while completing the task? |
• Can the length of time in the uncomfortable position be reduced?
Want to learn more about addressing ergonomics in non-repetitive jobs?
Read Ergoweb’s Guides to: