Once MSD risk factors have been identified and measured, the analyst needs to compose an appropriate control strategy. The goal of which is to increase the overlap between worker capabilities and task demands to improve the fit of the job with the worker.
Note: We’ve updated this topic — see The Hierarchy of Ergonomics Controls for the latest version.
The creation of control options depends on the experience and imagination of the analyst. Although specific solutions vary, there is a standard thought process that can be applied.
The analyst should first consider engineering solutions. This involves a change in the physical features of the workplace. When engineering solutions are not feasible, administrative controls offer methods to reduce the exposure of workers to the identified hazard. If administrative controls are not available, work practice controls should be considered and finally personal protective equipment (PPE).
The preferred method for controlling ergonomics hazards is through engineering techniques. When the design of the workplace reduces the magnitude of risk factors, the likelihood of injury/illness is lessened.
Engineering controls might include changing the weight of objects, changing work surface heights, or purchasing lifting aids.
Administrative controls are workplace policy, procedures, and practices that minimize the exposure of workers to risk conditions. They are considered less effective than engineering controls in that they do not usually eliminate the hazard. Rather, they lessen the duration and frequency of exposure to the risk condition. Administrative controls are applied when the cost or practicalities of engineering controls are prohibitive. Example administrative controls include rest breaks, additional employees performing a lifting task, and housekeeping for tools and work areas.
The least effective controls are PPE as the worker is still exposed to the risk factor. Some examples might include providing knee pads for workers laying carpet, or anti-vibration gloves for workers using powered hand tools.
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