As companies grow and change, so do workspaces. Desks come in and out to accommodate new employee headcounts, and open workspaces replace cubicles as employers continue to favor a more collaborative environment. When expansion becomes necessary, even storage closets can turn into offices and meeting rooms.
All these adjustments can affect workplace ergonomics. To ensure your employees stay healthy and productive amid these changes, you should simultaneously conduct ergonomic evaluations, which allow your organization to identify aspects of a workplace’s design, layout, and employee tasks that may contribute to an employee’s stress and physical discomfort as well as the risks they pose to the company.
When Is an Ergonomic Evaluation Needed?
When your company is expanding or moving from one location to the next, you should conduct an ergonomic evaluation. This helps identify issues before employees move in and begin their work.
Unfortunately, that’s often the last time many organizations conduct such an evaluation. Organizations should consider conducting an ergonomic evaluation whenever a significant change occurs within the physical workplace. An ergonomic assessment of your office, data center, warehouse, retail location, or other type of workplace can point out areas of concern, which can help you develop a program that truly addresses risk.
Here’s how you know it’s time to conduct an ergonomic evaluation.
- You’ve never conducted one. Developing a baseline is the first step in creating an office ergonomics program for an organization or worksite. This baseline establishes the work-related injuries that have occurred, if any, as well as any reported problems by workers. Typically, a baseline report includes injury and illness logs, workers’ compensation reports, first aid logs, accident reports, and safety committee meeting notes. You can use this baseline to establish new programs for mitigating risk and evaluating any corrective actions your company takes.
- You have new or expanded facilities. If you want to manage a successful ergonomics program, you must have on-the-ground knowledge of employees’ workspaces. This includes all new or newly renovated environments. Conducting a gemba walk as part of the ergonomic evaluation can offer valuable information about how workers use the new facilities, especially if this varies from how the designers intended.
- No one is experienced with ergonomics in-house. Too often, employees receive an ergonomic evaluation when they first begin a job and then never hear about ergonomics from the company again. For an organization to truly reduce risk, it should consistently include ergonomic evaluations as a regular aspect of work life. Whenever adding a new job, workspace, or process, employers and managers should take ergonomics into account. They should also regularly revisit the ergonomic environment of existing jobs and workspaces and remind employees of circumstances that increase the risk of injury and how to avoid them. If no one manages an in-house ergonomics program, conducting an ergonomic evaluation can create an action plan that empowers management to keep ergonomics front of mind through internal communications, meetings, and onboarding.
- You’ve seen an increase in injuries. As much as you try to mitigate risk, workplace injuries still happen. If you’ve seen an increase in employee claims for repetitive motion injuries or injuries that were once successfully avoided, you could have a problem on your hands. An ergonomic evaluation can help you identify ways to reduce injuries.
- You completed a mitigation plan. Let’s say your organization took steps a year ago to address workplace injuries with a mitigation plan. Now it’s time to evaluate the results. You gather injury reports and compare numbers before and after, but these numbers may not provide a full picture as to whether the plan was successful. Your organization may want more in-depth information, such as whether you met the timeline established at the beginning of the plan or how the plan addressed low-, medium- and high-risk concerns. An ergonomic evaluation can revisit these efforts and provide more context when determining if the plan was successful or if further planning to reduce risk is needed.
Of course, conducting ongoing ergonomic evaluations is a lot to track and manage, but office ergonomics assessment software can be a big help. For your own free demo of our powerful ergonomics software solution, we invite you to reach out to us today.