17 April 2014 by David Antle
In recent weeks, we have outlined why hiring and involving a certified, properly trained and qualified ergonomist is beneficial to your company. However, this isn’t to say that training staff at your company in ergonomics will not provide a benefit.
Ergonomics has evolved over time. No longer is it an “expert-based” approach, where the ergonomist controls all aspects of the ergonomics program. While such an approach is effective at recognizing risk factors and providing some guidelines for operations, making meaningful changes to improve the work condition and reduce injuries requires a deeper level of understanding. Workplace issues and injuries are multifactored, involving physical, psychosocial and organizational components. An external expert, no matter how qualified, cannot truly understand all of these aspects on their own. Instead, they need to rely on the knowledge and expertise of employees, supervisors and managers at the workplace to provide insights to add to their own technical and scientific expertise. Generally, this type of ergonomics program is titled “Participatory Ergonomics”.
There is a tremendous amount of value in taking courses on ergonomics to allow your organization to develop a culture for ergonomics and injury prevention, and build towards a participatory program. However, training and development of participatory ergonomics programs are not meant to replace an ergonomist. Running an ergonomics program without the input of an ergonomist can lead to poor sustainability of the initiative, and a lack of direction on integrating ergonomics principles during more complicated projects. Furthermore, after the initial ergonomics training, a period of growth in organisational appetite, success with projects and capacity for ergonomics will be required before a sustainable participatory program is in place. These lessons have been noted in multiple research projects, and I can speak directly to this effect after working with participatory ergonomics in many different workplaces across Canada.
At EWI Works, we fundamentally believe in the participatory model of ergonomics. While many of our newer clients start using an ergonomist to drive initial projects, we work with them to provide training and development over time so they can build participatory ergonomics program. Even after the program has been developed at the organization, we provide continued support for their programs as a facilitating ergonomist. In fact, we promote development of participatory models in our Principles of Industrial Ergonomics and Principles of Office Ergonomics Courses, and one staff member has authored a guide book on participatory ergonomics during a collaboration with other researchers (www.participatoryergonomics.mun.ca )
The evolution of an injury prevention and ergonomics program is highly dependent on building capacity and knowledge among your staff. This allows better integration of organizational needs when working with an ergonomist, and allows the interventions and program to be championed long term. To learn more about courses and programs that might be of interest to you, feel free to review our website and/or contact us.