Do you know Ergonomics? | My interviewer asked me!

Workplace Ergonomics became one of the reasons for my rejection in an interview. Let me brief you on my past interview experience.

It was a bad day. I was sitting for an interview at the office of AMS [Advanced Mechanical Sevices] & waiting for my turn. I had already qualified the written & GD round & it was the final round.  Soon, my turn came & I went inside for my technical interview. Few questions my interviewer asked me were:-

  1. Do you know any Cad software? | Answered
  2. How to manufacture a pen cap? | Answered
  3. Tell me something about DFMA? | Somewhat Answered
  4. Do you know about Workplace Ergonomics? | Blank

As a result, the interview was over & I wasn’t selected.

ERGONOMICS

In this article, I will discuss Ergonomics & why it is required in the workplace, Risk Factors involved in ergonomics & their control methods, Direct cost of workplace injury & Employee involvement in Ergonomic Process.

Definition

Ergonomics is defined as the science of designing the workplace, keeping in mind the capabilities and limitations of the worker. Poor worksite design leads to fatigued, frustrated and hurting workers. This rarely leads to the most productive and involved worker. Rather, it leads to a painful and costly injury, lower productivity and poor product quality.

In other words, industry growth depends on whether they are implementing ergonomics in their workplace or not. Moreover, lack of workplace ergonomics leads to musculoskeletal disorders [MSDs].

Why Workplace Ergonomics?

Washington State Department of Labor and Industries reviewed 250 case studies on the effects of ergonomics in a variety of settings. They found that ergonomics can have a profound impact on your organization, including the following five benefits:

1. Ergonomics reduces costs.

By systematically reducing ergonomic risk factors, you can prevent costly MSDs. With approximately $1 out of every $3 in workers compensation costs attributed to MSDs, this represents an opportunity for significant cost savings. Also, don’t forget that indirect costs can be up to twenty times the direct cost of an injury.

2. Ergonomics improves productivity.

The best ergonomic solutions will often improve productivity. By designing a job to allow for good posture, less exertion, fewer motions and better heights and reaches, the workstation becomes more efficient.

3. Ergonomics improves quality.

Poor ergonomics leads to frustrated and fatigued workers that don’t do their best work. Workers do not perform their job like they were trained as the job task is too physically wearing on them. For example, an employee might not fasten a screw tight enough due to a high force requirement which could create a product quality issue.

4. Ergonomics improves employee engagement.

Employees notice when the company is putting forth their best efforts to ensure their health and safety. If an employee does not experience fatigue and discomfort during their workday, it can reduce turnover, decrease absenteeism, improve morale and increase employee involvement.

5. Ergonomics creates a better safety culture.

Last but not the least, Ergonomics show your company’s commitment to safety and health as a core value. The cumulative effect of the previous four benefits of ergonomics is a stronger safety culture for your company. Healthy employees are your most valuable asset; creating and fostering the safety & health culture at your company will lead to better human performance for your organization.

Risk Factors Involved due to lack of Workplace Ergonomics

There are two types of Risk Factors involved in the workplace.

1. Instantaneous or Acute

These are results of an instantaneous or acute event. The acute events are slip, trip or fall in the workplace due to lack of safety in the workplace & lack of concentration in the work. Moreover, the improper arrangement of workplace tools, machines & inventory also acts as a driving factor to these acute events. These factors might lead to short-term or long-term injury. Nevertheless, these risk factor might also lead to musculoskeletal disorder in future due to back pain.

2. Non-Instantaneous

These disorders are not typically the result of an instantaneous or acute event. In fact, they are slow might lead to the risk of injury or illness to the worker’s musculoskeletal system causing musculoskeletal disorders. They reflect a gradual or chronic development. The ergonomic risk factors that can lead to MSDs include repetitive and forceful motions, static muscle load, mechanical stress, vibration, temperatures extreme, and awkward postures.

The table below summarizes the different types of ergonomics risk factors:

 Ergonomic Risk Factors

Ergonomics Control Methods

Every risk factor has its own control method. In fact, different manufacturing industries implement different control methods. There are three different types of ergonomics control methods. 

  1. Engineering Controls
  2. Administrative Controls
  3. Personal Protective Equipment

Leading Causes & Direct costs of Workplace Injuries

According to Safe Work Australia, the total economic cost of work-related injuries and illnesses are estimated to be $60 billion dollars. In fact, recent research has shown that lower back pain is the world’s most common work-related disability – affecting employees from offices. Thus, a direct cost is involved due to unavailability of the worker on the shop floor, treatment of the worker, slow productivity, quality issue etc.

The graph below depicts the leading causes & direct costs of Workplace Injury. 

Causes & Cost of Workplace Injury

Involvement of Team Members in the Ergonomics Process

Generally speaking, involving shop floor employees is very important to the success of your ergonomics process. Few benefits of employee involvement are as follows:- 

1. Employees become more focused on their work

They become are more alert, active and prepared to share their thoughts on how the job could be done differently to improve the safety and flow of the job.

2. Participation motivates employees to contribute to the process

A motivated employee will increase their commitment to the organization; and therefore, the goals that the organization sets around health and safety.

3. Participation lowers resistance to change

We all know forced change rarely works well. It also reduces there interest in work. Moreover, when they are participating then they are changing themselves too with the workplace. 

4. Participation answers the WIIFM(what’s in it for me?) principle

If we expect employees to demonstrate and execute the new behaviors and actions expected of them, then they must understand why.  By being involved the employees have firsthand knowledge of why the change is necessary in the first place.

5. Participation in decision making helps employees to take ownership and accountability for the process 

Overall, the ergonomics process provides employees opportunities for career development and training by learning about ergonomics. Thus, this allows them to do what they do best (the work) and the result is greater job satisfaction.

Is Ergonomics same for every Industry

For the most part, it’s true. Almost, all the manufacturing industries such as Sheet metal industry, Furnace Industry & Plastic Industry have the workplace ergonomics in like manner. However, the ergonomic implementation process is different in every manufacturing industry.

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