When faced with the outcomes including improved productivity, performance, accuracy and efficiency, who wouldn’t want to make the investment in ergonomics? But too often, ergonomics is mistaken as simply another tool for injury prevention as it is with OSHA’s involvement.
OSHA, by its very charter, admits a focus on injuries in its ergonomics plan. Statements including “Effective ergonomics is part of OSHA’s overall strategy for reducing workplace injuries and illnesses,” and “OSHA developed a four-pronged comprehensive approach to ergonomics that the agency believes will quickly and effectively address MSDs [musculoskeletal disorders] in the workplace,” perpetuate ergonomics’ reputation as a have-to with the sole goal of injury prevention. In reality, however, that is anything but the case.
Injury prevention is a by-product of ergonomics, not its sole purpose. And there are a number of ways accessible to businesses to try to prevent injuries in the workplace. Stretch breaks and wellness programs, personal protective equipment, shorter work shifts or job rotation may help reduce exposure or create a more physically fit staff, particularly if combined with an ergonomics program, but none of these interventions alone can do what true ergonomics as a whole does for an organization
This article originally appeared in The Ergonomics Report™ on 2004-02-01.