Ergonomics – Does it improve safety or efficiency, or both?

Ergonomics can be applied to any situation in which humans interact with equipment, processes, information, etc. Many industries can benefit from ergonomic improvements. A classic example of an ergonomic improvement is the use of handrails on truck exit doors in the delivery and field service industries. This placing of hand rails near the exit door of trucks helps to alleviate the stress placed on a service employee’s knees and joints when entering and exiting the vehicle. While one of the main intended benefits of ergonomics is to improve safety, it can also increase productivity and human comfort while making it easier to perform a task.

Imagine a job that requires an employee to obtain materials from a pallet, perform some task, and hand them off to the next station. Also in this fictional task, the employee has to bend down to the pallet to get the material each time. In each instance of bending, there is safety risk. Also, picking up an item while bending takes longer than picking them up from waist height or within reach. If the materials could be fed to the employee on a table, roller, or conveyor, the employee could grab the material faster (without a bend) and less stress would be placed on the employee’s back and legs. This is one small example where ergonomics can enhance safety and improve efficiency.

Does your company have situations like this throughout your building, shop, or facility? Piecing a few of these smaller improvements together can have a large impact on an operation. Just remember that an ergonomic improvement can have multiple benefits, including enhanced safety and productivity.

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