Great Advice on Leading Indicators

The company decided to pursue "participative ergonomics" and designated 100 ergonomic champions and coaches, along with mentorship programs.

I try to learn a few things every day. On Jan. 19, 2017, I learned more than usual from an OH&S Academy webinar presented by Robert Pater, our magazine's longtime Breakthrough Strategies columnist. His topic was "Leading with Ergo Improvement Indicators," and he showed the audience and me how to set up an effective program to prevent soft-tissue injuries.

Few companies take the time to formulate ergonomic leading indicators or monitor other companies' leading indicators, Robert said, adding that "locking the barn door after the horse has escaped" is all too common in U.S. companies' safety management. He recommended taking ongoing small steps to improve and developing "early intelligence" to help develop those steps.

Robert organized his presentation into what he called 3 Fs:

  • Set the Foundation for building ergonomic change
  • Frame the actions
  • Finish—harvest and analyze trailing indicators

He described a program used several years ago by a Canadian client with 4,200 employees that realized 55 percent of its injuries were musculoskeletal injuries. The company decided to pursue what it called "participative ergonomics." It designated 100 ergonomic champions and coaches and created mentorship programs. A key focus of the effort was teaching its workers to self-monitor wherever they are, Robert explained.

Help people think cumulatively and "get the input of everybody you can," he advised. He also gave all of us listeners this nugget: Ask yourself, do we have left-handed people on our safety committees? You should, because left-handers are a disproportionate share of soft-tissue injuries, developed from trying to fit into a world built for right-handers, he said.

This article originally appeared in the March 2017 issue of Occupational Health & Safety.

About the Author

Jerry Laws is Editor of Occupational Health & Safety magazine, which is owned by 1105 Media Inc.

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