While working with clients in various industries, and attending/presenting at ergonomics-related conferences, I encounter many interesting conversations and discussions about fact vs. fiction or “ergo myths.”
Here are a four “ergo myths” and the factual answers to the statements/questions:
FICTION: An ergonomics program will destroy my company’s productivity.
FACT: A proper ergonomics program will improve worker comfort, as well as minimize movements that may be unnecessary. This reduction of non value-added movements will minimize the physical demands of the job, which will reduce worker fatigue, while also reducing the amount of time necessary to perform a process. Eliminating non value-added steps also reduces the potential for error.
FICTION: Ergonomic programs are too expensive to implement in my company.
FACT: Ergonomic programs, if designed, developed, implemented, and evaluated properly have been shown to be cost-effective for employers. Studies have shown for every $1 invested in ergonomic programs, there is a return of $3 - $30+ (meta-analysis of literature).
FICTION: There is an ergonomics standard in the United States.
FACT: There is NOT an ergonomics rule/standard that all employers must comply within the United States. ISO has some standards, but they are not mandatory in theUnited States.
Although an ergonomics rule/standard has been proposed multiple times over the past 20+ years, there is still not an ergonomics rule/standard. However, OSHA can fine employers for ergonomic-related issues via the “General Duty Cause.” (1)
FICTION: I bought something online and the manufacturer said it is “ergonomically correct,” so it must be, right?
FACT: Not all “ergonomically correct” tools and equipment are created equal. Some products may have that phrase attached to it as part of a marketing strategy, but the item has not undergone any rigorous testing by a certified ergonomist or other ergonomics professional. Some items have actually been tested and approved by a certified ergonomist or other ergonomics professional. Believe the old saying of caveat emptor...Let the buyer beware!
Dr. James Rethaber, Ph.D., CPE is currently the Director of Ergonomics at Fit For Work. Dr. Rethaber has completed over 5,000 physical demands analyses/ergonomic risk assessments and is responsible for developing engineering and non-engineering initiatives that reduce injury while also improving productivity (lean ergonomics). He has worked in the fields of orthopedic sports medicine, biomechanics, and ergonomics for over 15 years, and is a published researcher and a national speaker on ergonomics and injury prevention.