Magazine article Risk Management

Steps Involved in Ergonomic Training

Magazine article Risk Management

Steps Involved in Ergonomic Training

Article excerpt

NOW THAT SCIENTIFIC evidence overwhelmingly demonstrates that ergonomically related injuries are a severe and growing problem, many employers have begun to implement ergonomic training programs for their work forces. However, implementing these training approaches -- and then verifying their effectiveness -- requires a specific training regimen that is tailored to the needs of each group of employees within the firm, declares Robert O. Andres, president of Ergonomic Engineering Inc. in Pelham, Massachusetts. For example, before developing a retraining program, a company must first ensure that applied training "is focused on the industry you're dealing with," he says. For example, a meat packing company must adopt a program that addresses the specific ergonomic exposures that occur in the jobs in that industry.

Generally, there are three types of ergonomic training programs, says Mr. Andres. The first, awareness training, focuses on educating workers about the causes of ergonomic injuries and the ways to prevent or mitigate them. Training for new hires is the second type of training, and is geared toward introducing the new employee to the company's ergonomics program. Finally, there are refresher courses, which involve maintaining and upgrading the ergonomic knowledge of previously trained employees.

Awareness Training

AWARENESS TRAINING programs are aimed at all current employees, including everyone in management, from the chief executive officer to line supervisors, staff employees and "practitioners," who are "those employees who will spearhead the ergonomic training, including risk managers, safety personnel, medical staff and industrial engineers," says Mr. Andres. Because the needs and responsibilities of each of these groups are different, each group will have to be trained separately.

In an awareness training program, it is important to train senior management first, says Mr. Andres. Doing so encourages their commitment to the program, thus ensuring the training fits into the corporate culture. Also, once management have been trained in the program, they are able to assign responsibility for its various features to specific employees.

Awareness training for senior managers should include techniques for performing a cost-benefit analysis that effectively points out the specific problems the program will measure, as well as the program's costs. "Performing a cost benefit analysis is important because many times top management sees ergonomics as a cost only," says Mr. Andres. "But if you can demonstrate the savings that a given plan can result in, you can help provide upper management with the impetus they need to support the program." The results of the cost-benefit analysis will also help senior management convince the company's stockholders or board about how the ergonomics program will result in significant savings.

Awareness training for managers must also describe the details of ergonomics training, says Mr. Andres. Although these details will depend on a given company's industry, the four essential components of an ergonomics training program are worksite analysis, hazard identification and control, medical management, and training and education. "The goal of educating management about the ergonomics program is to demonstrate to them what is being done and how the company can benefit from the plan. …

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