“Engaging Ergonomics”

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March 2015: Macroergonomics


When I first began consulting on ergonomics with my clients over 20 years ago, I realized early on how vital it was to ask employees how they felt about the work they were doing or if they had any concerns with the work environment before I began my assessment. I noticed when I asked them, they were always happy to tell me their thoughts and often provide solutions to the problems they reported. At the time, I didn’t realize it, but I was practicing “Participatory Ergonomics”, a theory and practice developed by Dr. Andrew Imada and Kageyu Noro as explained in the same titled book by Taylor and Francis (1991) *1.

Participatory ergonomics seeks to maximize the involvement of the worker in the ergonomics process based on the simple fact that a worker is an expert on his or her job. The participatory approach to ergonomics relies on actively involving workers in implementing ergonomic knowledge, procedures and changes with the intention of improving working conditions, safety, productivity, quality, morale and comfort. By doing so, the outcome will be significant to the organization and employees’ health and productivity.

Talking to employees about the work they do on a day to day basis; what is difficult, awkward or repetitive, what they like and don’t like, safety concerns they may have is all part of participatory ergonomics. Allowing employees to express these concerns in a trusting, safe and non-confrontational manner makes way for change and helps to focus the direction change would be most valuable. Using paper or online survey tools, such as self-assessments, team interaction, and building mock ups of proposed change, participating in a round robin discussion group, are all examples of participatory ergonomics.

Ergonomics engages employees to participate in their wellness and wellbeing through self-assessment, self-care and self-responsibility. When employees are engaged in their work because of the opportunity to participate, they experience a sense of ownership in improving their organization. Employers gain far more than a transactional experience with the employee as a result. Engagement is both an emotional experience and physical action together resulting in a more satisfying, longer lasting experience for employees. It engages the heart, spirit, mind and hands *2. In other words, engagement has significant value in enhancing the positive psychosocial aspects of work keeping employees working at your organization longer, contributing whole-heartedly while reducing the likelihood of work injuries and accidents from occurring.

Many employers have learned the value of physical ergonomics such as providing better ergonomic chairs, keyboards, monitor arms, sit to stand desks, etc. But if injuries and illnesses are continuing to occur despite these physical changes, it is likely the result of the organizational and psychosocial risk factors that have not been addressed, the lack of employee engagement and participation in solving ergonomic concerns. This is particularly helpful when dealing with a young workforce (Millenials), who expect employers to create a work environment that is a fun place to work, comfortable, stimulating, and innovative and a good fit.

So before investing further in new equipment or new procedures, stop and ask your employees how it will affect them and if they have ideas to contribute to improve the workplace. Data suggests that when employees feel appreciated for their efforts and successes, experience opportunities to work together effectively in a team and are involved in workplace change, they stay longer *3. In addition, statistics show that engaged employees are healthier, happier and more productive. And that is what we all want!

1- Noro, Kageyu and Imada, Andrew, “Participatory Ergonomics”, Taylor and Francis, 1991.

2- Maylett, Tracy and Warner, Paul, “Magic: Five Keys to Unlock the Power of Employee Engagement”, Greenleaf Book Group, 2014.

3- Visit: http://www.aon.com/human-capital-consulting/thought-leadership/talent/inside-the-employee-mindset.jsp

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Comments on: Engaging Ergonomics


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Alison Heller-Ono

In reply to Deb.
HI Deb, Thanks for your feedback. I’m happy to answer any questions you have on the topic. Our next blog will be published in a few days. Keep reading and sharing your thoughts.


Thanks, this was well-worth reading. Now I want to read more…

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