Based upon interviews with EHS and business managers a successful ergonomics agenda is defined as one that:
Has achieved measurable reduction in Musculoskeletal Disorder (MSD) incident and severity rates
Has financial benefits that meet the expectations of management
Is based on proven methods, a logical process and is self-sustaining
After the evaluation of 287 ergonomics initiatives worldwide, it is clear that programs fail because they were meant not meant to succeed. Their inherent structure was poorly conceived and their deployment process flawed. In contrast, strategies and tactics that drive successful ergonomics programs are the same as those that drive other successful improvement initiatives. The essential lesson learned is that a successful ergonomics agenda is a combination of:
Business planning fundamentals
Combined with the fundamentals of Health & Safety
Delivered through fundamentally sound engineering and design principles.
Successful improvement initiatives tend to follow the basic principle of "plan your work - work your plan" Ergonomics initiatives, that have achieved measurable impacts while meeting management's expectations for financial investments, also require solid planning and follow through. Pitfalls of poor planning can be easily avoided using the Deming cycle of Plan-Do-Check-Act (PDCA).
A starting point for the planning process is to develop a purpose statement for the ergonomics program (i.e., what problem are we trying to solve?). In addition, the planning process must include the development of goals that are measurable and time-based, responsibility assignments, and resource commitments that are aligned with the overall purpose. Effective plans address the question: What are we going to do? (strategic planning), as well as the question: How are we going to do it? (tactical planning).
Some companies are great at strategizing but abysmal at doing. Every program is a paper tiger. If ergonomics is to succeed, there is work involved. Companies that are successful at ergonomics are effective at both planning and executing. Effective execution is almost always driven by accountability - bringing to life the old saying "That which gets measured gets done." Accountability can be reinforced in many ways: One very effective means is to make sure that ergonomics responsibilities are integrated into the performance plan of personnel outside EH&S - functional managers, engineers, facilities personnel, maintenance personnel, etc.
Many companies track the effectiveness of their ergonomics program based on injury/illness data. The challenge is that these lagging metrics tell you where you have been effective in the past, not where you are being effective today. Leading metrics, especially MSD risk exposure data, give you the information needed to identify gaps in performance before people are injured.