One of the key benefits to taking a solid systems approach to ergonomics is that every aspect of the affected operation is considered prior to developing a solution.
It’s not just a situation where stretching before work may prepare workers’ muscles for lifting heavy boxes; a systems approach will tackle the heart of the problem. This might mean using a cart so the boxes are rolled rather than lifted and moved, or adjusting box sizes to make the task easier.
Proper solutions will positively impact injury rates, productivity and the difficulty of the task without hindering another aspect of the operation. Systems approaches look at the big picture, analyzing the effects of a proposed change prior to making that change to find a solution that fits, no matter how simple or small.
Sometimes, however, an impact of the solution is overlooked and what was thought to be the best solution creates another, unforeseen, problem. The options might then become additionally modifying the system or returning the process to its previous state. In the face of a perceived failure, neither approach sounds appealing.
But ergonomics isn’t a one-time effort. Whether a solution works perfectly as planned or is deemed to have its shortcomings, the nature of ergonomics means that the process must be reviewed, monitored and continually tweaked to keep up with modifications in tasks and a changing workforce.
Keeping the systems approach in mind, any ergonomics intervention must be considered in relationship to the operation overall. Ergonomics is a process that involves continuous improvements to the operation to achieve goals that enhance all aspects of the work environment.
This article originally appeared in The Ergonomics Report™ on 2004-01-01.