The value of ergonomics for manufacturing. 6 benefits of effective ergonomics.
Manufacturers can see many rewards from ergonomically designed manufacturing processes...and, your workers are better off, too!
OSHA defines Ergonomics simply as “the study of work”. More specifically, ergonomics is the science of designing the job to fit the worker, rather than physically forcing the worker's body to fit the job.
In ergonomics, the worker is the central figure. That means fitting the job to the worker’s capabilities. Ergonomics is NOT implementing the latest stretching program (although that may play a role in decreasing injuries), but it IS about looking at the tasks that are being performed and matching them with the capabilities of the worker to minimize injury risk and maximize quality and efficiency.
Here are six benefits of ergonomics to manufacturers:
1) Improved safety
Many manufacturers focus on accident prevention; “We have been accident free for 180 days.” However, injuries that result from poor ergonomics are some of the most common and severe kinds of injuries in manufacturing. Ergonomic injuries are sometimes called musculoskeletal injuries, strains, sprains, or cumulative trauma disorders and can have a significant impact on an organization.
- In 2016 strains, sprains, or tears accounted for 30% of the days away from work cases for manufacturing employers.
- In 2016, 18% of the total days away from work cases were attributed to workers transporting or moving materials (materials handing).
- In 2016, the median number of days away from work for a single case of carpal tunnel syndrome was 25.
- In 2015, the major cause of injuries was “overexertion and bodily reaction”.
Effective ergonomics reduces the presence of injury risk factors, reduces the risk for worker injury, and thus improves overall safety..
2) Worker health
Repetitive bending, twisting, turning and heavy lifting can result in painful injuries for a worker. Discomfort and injuries affect the person at work as well as at home and can have implications in all areas of their life. In 2016, there were 410,500 injuries and illnesses reported. To recover from an injury, the worker must schedule and attend doctor and therapy visits, spend time complying with testing, exercises or other courses of treatment, and, in some cases, have surgery. An injured worker may also miss work and receive disability payments that may not cover 100% of their salary. Each of these things impact the worker’s daily quality of life.
Effective ergonomics reduces the risk of worker injury, and maintains or improves their health allowing workers to perform their work and enjoy improved quality of life outside of work.
3) Increased productivity
Comprehensive ergonomics evaluations consider the entire work process. These evaluations primarily aim to identify and decrease the injury risk factors that are present, but in many cases result in improvements in productivity. When items are brought within reach or lifting from the floor is eliminated, there is a time savings associated with the elimination of the extra movements resulting in decreases in cycle time and increases in productivity. In one case, a process was changed to reduce pinching, pushing and pulling. The improved work process also resulted in a decreased cycle time of up to 15%. Ergonomics and LEAN principles often go hand in hand to reduce waste (non-value added activities), thus making jobs easier and more efficient to perform, resulting in increases in productivity.
4) Increased quality
Workers who are not working efficiently, who are experiencing discomfort, or who are straining to complete their work tasks often do not do their best work. When workers aren’t working their best, quality suffers. Quality also suffers when the work that would normally be performed by the injured worker is assigned to a less experienced worker or is added onto the workload of a more experienced peer. Decreased quality results in increased costs including increased time to production, rework and scrap.
In addition to decreasing the presence of risk factors, an effective ergonomics program establishes standard operating procedures. These procedures not aim to standardize a way of performing a task to minimize risk, but also serve to maintain established quality standards.
5) Decreased costs and improved profitability
Injuries can cost more than manufacturers realize, these costs are often unaccounted for and associated with each injury. It is the cost of time spent by other people related to the injury. This includes supervisors who have to reschedule work shifts and train workers to perform the injured worker’s tasks; co-workers who must work overtime to ensure work is completed without their injured peer; human resources professionals who need to process workers compensation claims, file reports and complete incident reviews; and managers who interview workers, identify root causes, and report findings to other managers and teams. Effective ergonomics reduces the risk of injury, thus eliminating the costs associated with the time spent on these activities.
By reducing ergonomic risk factors and creating user-friendly work processes, manufacturers can reduce or prevent costly injuries, improve productivity, and maintain quality. All of these aspects positively impact costs and profitability within the company.
6) A better workforce
A proactive ergonomic plan can also create a better work environment. The ability to perform a job without discomfort plays a role in the worker’s perspective about the culture of their company and their satisfaction with the work they do and their company. A manufacturer that cares for their workers well being and communicates it through a safe workplace and a health safety and ergonomics work culture has a better chance of retaining their workforce.
Let us know if we can help you create an ergonomically successful manufacturing environment so you can experience the benefits!
Dr Miller has over 20 years of experience in the field of ergonomics and is a Certified Professional Ergonomist (CPE). Known for expertise in applied occupational ergonomics and organizational safety/ergonomics climate, Brandy has worked directly for a manufacturing organization in many industries including aerospace, automotive, food processing, power production, heavy equipment, and semiconductor.