People + Process = Performance

5 Essential Components of Ergonomic Programs (Part 2)

To review the last blog, the first 3 components of an ergonomics program were:  1) System based, 2) Tied into the mission and strategic initiatives of the company and 3) Effective business case.  The next two are:

4. Ergonomic performance standards built into everyone’s performance expectations

Everyone in a company has performance standards on which they are evaluated which are done at least on an annual basis.  Examples of these standards include staying within or under budget, completing tasks within or under the expected timeframe and assembling or producing products within or under expected defect rates.  So where are the ergonomic standards?  If there is no performance expectation for ergonomics for each employee (top to bottom) then the success rate of the ergonomics program will drop.  This is where tying ergonomics to strategic initiatives and performance expectations meet.  Typically is a company has a strategic initiative then most everyone in the company will be involved and/or expected to contribute to that goal.  Making ergonomics a known and vital process to everyone and presenting a reasonable and measureable performance indicator that goes on everyone’s scorecard will result in ergonomics becoming ingrained in the culture.  The saying “if it’s important to my boss, it’s important to me” holds true from the top down.  Think about this.  Say you have 10 things sitting on your desk that need attention and you know that you will be measured and held accountable for three of those ten.  Which ones do you think you’ll focus on first?  The three that you will be measured on.  Performance standards—an essential component frequently overlooked.

5. Real time metrics combined with continuous improvement

The fifth and final essential component is metrics, specifically real-time (leading) metrics.  Leading metrics are those that occur before the event.  Lagging metrics are those that occur (are measured) after the event.  Lagging metrics seems to be much easier and therefore used the most, especially those related to injuries, lost days and costs.  But when do those metrics appear?—after the fact.  Do they let you know how your ergonomics program is doing today?  Not at all.  It tells you how it was doing yesterday.  The key with metrics are two-fold.  One is to find metrics that address all of your stakeholders.  The other is to use those that are leading or concurrent.  The purpose is to let you know how your ergonomics program is doing today and to alert you to “molehills” before they turn into mountains.  Ergonomic leading metrics will relate to risk and to performance barriers.  Here are a few examples of leading metrics:

  • Percent of workstations/tasks/processes that are at low risk
  • Percent of targeted workstations/tasks/processes that have been assessed for risk
  • Number of new workstations/tools/equipment/processes assessed for risk prior to purchase/implementation
  • Percent of employees targeted for ergonomic training

There are plenty of other leading metrics that can be used.  The main point when determining metrics is to think of today, not yesterday.  Use these metrics to assess your ergonomics program and to make improvements.  Continuous process improvement should be a given part of your ergonomics program. 


If you have an ergonomics program, do you have all five of these essential components?  If you’re planning on implementing a program, do you have all five of these in your plans?  If so, I congratulate you!  You’re well on your way to success.  If not, take a step and consider how the inclusion of one or more of these components will impact the success of your program.  It will be well worth the time and effort to add these to your program.


In addition to the 5 component, the effectiveness of the program also depends on where it is located, i.e. who "owns" it.

“Location, location, location!”  We’ve all heard those words when it comes to real estate.  The same house located on a lake is of more value and therefore worth much more than when it is located on a street in the city.  The same can be said for where the roles and responsibility of an ergonomic program resides.  The value to company can rise and fall depending on the location.  If you read this month’s (December 2011) feature article you probably have a good idea on the best location.  The most common location for ergonomic programs is in EHS or HR.  It’s not that these locations are wrong; it’s just that they tend to limit the affect and therefore, benefit/value of ergonomics to the company.  The best and most impactful location for ergonomics is in the operations or engineering department.   Here are the reasons why I believe that ergonomics belongs in operations or engineering:

  • Only becomes a health and safety concern once an injury has occurred
  • Ergonomic issues are rooted in product and workstation design
  • Sustainable fixes are engineering controls
  • Design standards are the way to get ahead and stop chasing injuries
  • Ability to influence design is at the beginning stage (who’s in charge of work process/equipment changes--ops/eng)
  • Cost of design change is least at the beginning stage (see above)

So to be most effective and sustainable, and to get the most value and benefit to your company, place your ergonomics program in operations or engineering.


If you want assistance with your ergonomics program or have questions in general, please do not hesitate to contact us.  We’re here to help to you make your ergonomic program a successful system!