September 07 2013 Ergonomics Part 2

Rebecca (McPheeters) Ellson, RN, COHN-S/CM, MBA, Health Consultant for InSafe provides insight in implementing Ergonomic Programs for Healthcare Facilities - Part 2
The purpose of this article is to identify the key steps to successfully implement an ergonomics program for healthcare workers to decrease their risk for musculoskeletal injuries and provide a safer work environment.


Develop a Written Ergonomic Program

A written program starts with a well-defined purpose, program goals, management leadership roles and employee involvement. Additional elements of the written program include:

• Employer responsibilities,
• Training,
• Surveillance,
• Evaluation and management of musculoskeletal injuries,
• Job analysis and job design, and
• Intervention approaches with timelines.


Employees and managers need training to recognize potential ergonomic issues, musculoskeletal injury signs and symptoms, and an understanding of techniques to decrease the risk for injuries.

It is imperative that employees understand the importance of early reporting as well as their role in the ergonomics program. Specialized training and “train the trainer” training can be provided for designated Ergonomic Specialists. 

Training should include:

• Job task analysis,
• Evaluating job practices, and
• How to determine safer approaches to perform their jobs.

Ergonomic Specialists must also provide ongoing methods for keeping employees informed, trained on new job processes, equipment and remind employees of the importance of working safer.

Responsibilities of the Ergonomic Team

The focus of the committee is to identify the root cause of “near misses” and injuries as well as determine methods for preventing future injuries. It is highly recommended that a complete walk-through worksite assessment be conducted prior to the Team Meeting.  In order to be objective and identify potential problems, it is recommended that each team member complete the walk through assessments in areas they do not normally work. As a part of the assessment phase, the committee should discuss hazards and recommend changes to eliminate or reduce the hazard. This assessment also includes evaluating current policies, procedures, and equipment and employee behaviors.

As noted above, employee involvement is key to the success of an ergonomic program.

Employee participation can include:

• Identification of ergonomic risk factors,
• Brainstorming of alternatives and solutions,
• Discussions on the job tasks,
• Assessing control effectiveness,
• Symptom identification, and
• Reward and recognition tools.

Ultimately, employees need to understand the importance of becoming “champions” for ergonomic changes.  It must also be stressed that ergonomic programs have the potential of changing the culture of healthcare organizations as employees begin to use ergonomic principles to improve their jobs and the workplace. Participatory interventions incorporate management commitments to reducing injuries along with workers who are involved in developing solutions. The results are positive and effective changes can occur.