Elements of manual material handling (MMH) are such basic workplace actions that it’s easy to think that we don’t need to worry about them. But if employers and employees don’t pay attention to how they’re being done, the result can be costly injuries or wasted energy and time.
However, employing the principles of ergonomics in manual material handling can not only save medical costs; it can increase morale, productivity, and product quality while reducing process bottlenecks, error rates, and worker turnover, absenteeism, and retraining.
When many people hear the word “automation”, their first thoughts usually lead them to envision a parent who is out of a job and no longer able to put food on the table for their children. What is short-sighted in this is that automation, when implemented properly, can actually improve employee outcomes by assisting employees in areas where strains and injuries can occur.
Geary A. Rummler was a pioneer in the performance improvement field, most famous for saying “If you put a good person against a bad system, the system wins almost every time.” He knew that using lean manufacturing and other continuous improvement methodologies without considering human factors could potentially lead to catastrophic failures of the entire system. The results would mean increased injuries and decreased profitability.
They’re work-related musculoskeletal disorders, and they can cost yourworkersand your bottom line plenty: in pain, suffering, lost time, product defects, hospitalizations, workers’ compensation claims, and more. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that in 2013 musculoskeletal disorders accounted for a third of all cases of injury and illness among US workers.1
Ergonomics, focused on improving the relationship between the human body and industrial processes, is a major way of reducing them.
Going lean is a growing trend in American manufacturing today, with about half of the enterprises in the country choosing lean manufacturing (aka Lean Six Sigma) over traditional mass production. Ergonomics, the study and implementation of practices that help humans to interact with systems—including production systems—more healthfully, is also coming to the forefront in
Ergonomics is the study and implementation of practices that help humans interact with processes—including industrial processes—more safely and healthfully.
But there’s a healthy-bottom-line aspect to ergonomics too, as people at Plant 4 of Nexeteer Automotive in Saginaw, Michigan discovered when they used basic ergonomics to create a new tool and saved $24,000 a year on a $150 investment.
Lean manufacturing and ergonomics may seem to pull in opposite directions, with lean pushing production efficiencies and ergonomics emphasizing the physical/physiological needs of workers. However, lean manufacturing and ergonomics can work together creating a more efficient and safe workplace.
When work brings a high physical demand in both pace and material handling, the probability of a musculoskeletal injury occurring increases exponentially. Regardless of the job’s tasks, proper ergonomic guidance (e.g., training, instruction, coaching and education) is essential for long term wellness and high yield productivity. So what should that training and instruction look like? What should that coaching and education look like? What if you were the one being asked to put the training and instruction to work? Could you do it?
It’s often a question that is front-of-mind to many risk, human resource and safety managers: How can our organization maintain best practices when it comes to OSHA and ANSI standard-compliant employee training? Get the answer to this question and much more by downloading our newest eBook, "Is Your Employee Training Solving Real Ergo Problems?"