A weblog dedicated to Ergonomics education, dicussion and debate. This emerging field has the power to transform industry, business and the lives of ordinary people for the better. The Industrial Athlete intends to encourage and document our profession's vision of an ergonomically-friendly future!

Saturday, January 13, 2007

The Importance Of Ergonomics-Focused Positions In Industrial Environments

Recently, I've been searching for new ergonomics employment, and it has occured to me during the inital stages of my job hunt that the visibility of our profession in many industrial sectors is not where it should be. Any search for "ergonomics" on major job sites will mostly turn up OH&S positions where ergonomic interventions are a minor sidebar in the responsibilities column; worse, the knowledge of ergonomics is often considered to be merely an "asset".

Well, last time I checked, bad backs, sore wrists, and chronic pain occur with far greater frequency than broken bones, burns, or bumps on the head. This observation isn't meant to diminish the importance of a well-run OH&S program, but it meant to highlight the shockingly low profile that ergonomics holds in comparison to the professions of safety and industrial hygiene.

While you do hear a great deal about ergonomics in the media, it is usually within the context of the typical "office workstation" stereotype. This lends the notion that it is the domain of the office environment, while safety concerns hold court in the industrial world. Since there is a lot of media attention paid to all the things that could kill you in the industrial realm, it is easy to forget that ergonomics has much to offer hard working people in our factories, on our construction sites, and on our oil rigs.

As mentioned earlier, improper ergonomics on the job site can cause people to suffer from a variety of muscloskeletal disorders. In addition to this causing increased absenteeism as these problems worsen, a serious drain on productivity is caused when they choose to work through their pain.

The costs of this leaking bucket of productivity, absenteeism and medical bills are staggering, with estimated losses from back pain alone costing the U.S. economy $90 billion dollars per year (Source). While acute and fatal injury risks have their own self-evident importance, it is clear that companies ignore ergonomic deficits in their workplaces at their financial peril.

To tackle this problem effectively, it is vital that business leaders in industry take note of the human factor in the jobs that their employees perform, by bolstering the importance of ergonomics in their OH&S divisions. Requiring that any safety specialists that are hired have a strong background in ergonomics education/experience, or better still, creating a separate position for an ergonomist/ergonomics specialist will allow proper attention to be focused on this sector of OH&S.

Workplace health and safety problems is a multi-headed hydra: trying to fight it with one catch-all job position or philosophy will reduce the odds of defeating it. Tackling it with a multi-disciplinary approach that includes ergonomics as a major component will make it easier to master your OH&S problems.


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