BI’s Article search uses Boolean search capabilities. If you are not familiar with these principles, here are some quick tips.

To search specifically for more than one word, put the search term in quotation marks. For example, “workers compensation”. This will limit your search to that combination of words.

To search for a combination of terms, use quotations and the & symbol. For example, “hurricane” & “loss”.

Login Register Subscribe



CHICAGO-Ergonomics training is an essential element of any effective safety and health program for workers at all levels, experts agree.

The overall goal of such training is to help workers identify portions of job tasks that may increase the risk of developing musculoskeletal disorders and then to participate in developing strategies or controls to prevent them.

Common forms of training focus on ergonomics awareness, job analyses and controls as well as problem-solving, according to panelists at a recent federal conference on effective workplace practices and programs.

In the past, unfortunately, the traditional approach to training usually consisted of an intense, short-term campaign that then faded away, said Stephen H. Gutmann, an ergonomics specialist with Minnesota Mining & Manufacturing Co. in St. Paul, Minn.

Such traditional programs usually were targeted toward hourly workers, dealt with a specific topic and often were superficial, he said.

"The quality revolution has shown that a different approach can work better," Mr. Gutmann said. Training "must be a process, and not just a program." It also should be tailored to a specific organization and reflect its culture, he said.

An effective training program also should address workers at all levels, he added.

For example, engineers need to understand that the tools or processes they create have an ergonomic impact on the workers and customers who use them, though very few engineers have had any training in ergonomics, he said.

Managers need to understand how to analyze injury and illness trends, as well as cope with issues that include case management, workers compensation, productivity and quality.

Supervisors need to understand the importance of encouraging workers to report injuries early, as well as how to best work with employees to define and prioritize ergonomic issues.

Hourly workers, who often serve on ergonomic teams or committees, need training so they can recognize and develop skills to analyze risks, prioritize issues, assist in finding solutions and follow up on actions taken.

3M's process-oriented approach paid off from 1990 to 1996 with a 58% decrease in the number of lost-time ergonomic cases and a 22% decrease in all cases that must be reported to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, Mr. Gutmann said. The company also experienced significant reductions in workers compensation costs, he added.

The most effective type of training can best be done by actively involving workers rather than lecturing to them, experts say.

"Workers are, in fact, experts when it comes to identifying hazards and identifying solutions," said Laura Stock, associate director of the Labor Occupational Health Program at the Berkeley, Calif.-based University of California's School of Public Health.

The United Brotherhood of Carpenters used that idea to develop a successful training program for apprentices, said Paula Coleman, curriculum developer and senior grants coordinator for the union's Health and Safety Fund in Washington.

The union used skilled carpenters, many of whom had experienced musculoskeletal disorders, to train apprentices during a mandatory four-hour session. The sessions emphasized participatory discussions-rather than lectures-about evaluating tools from an ergonomic perspective and sketching improvements in tool and equipment designs.

The program was funded with a grant from the National Institute of Safety and Health.