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Improve employee health with an ergonomic assessment checklist

Improve workplace ergonomics and prevent work-related injuries using an ergonomic assessment form. Learn how you can implement one in your company and what you should put on the form.

What Is an Ergonomic Assessment Form?

By using an ergonomic assessment form, you can easily identify and prevent the risk of ergonomic injury. Think about a time when you had aching muscles or a reflexive pain and how it put a crimp in your daily flow. Now think about the little movements your employees make hundreds of times a day—maybe that’s clicking the mouse or typing on the keyboard. These repetitive tasks can cause injury, slow the work processes, and cost your business in injury claims. By making sure your employees are aware of some simple tactics to improve workplace ergonomics, your business can achieve the best possible results while staying compliant and making your employees happy, too.

Ergonomics uses science to improve safety and efficiency in the workplace. Ergonomic assessment includes examining the physical, physiological, and biomechanical effects of people, may it be in workspaces, sports and leisure, or health and safety. From the findings, you can improve people’s interaction with a product, a system, and the environment they are in.

Workplace redesign is the most common area where an ergonomic assessment checklist is applied. The goal of ergonomics is to help workspaces reduce the possibility of harm or injury.

This article deals with:

1. The Importance of an Ergonomics Checklist

2. Improving your workplace ergonomic assessment

3. Writing an ergonomic assessment report

4. How often a ergonomic assessment should be performed

5. A digital solution for an ergonomics checklist

Woman using a standing desk and filling out an ergonomic checklist

What Is the Importance of an Ergonomic Assessment Form?

An ergonomic assessment form is of particular importance when trying to minimize adverse physical injury. Your employees can suffer health consequences if the office does not meet ergonomic design standards.

Injuries include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • Back pain
  • Musculoskeletal disorders
  • Headaches
  • Respiratory diseases
  • Cardiovascular diseases
  • Psychological diseases

Ergonomics aims to create workspaces that are safe, comfortable, and conducive to work. It uses the scientific study of human abilities and limitations in designing a workspace. It considers people’s body size, sensory abilities, strength, skill, speed, and nature of work to create the best possible environment for performing their jobs.

An ergonomic assessment is an evaluation of how a worker moves around their workstation while carrying out their tasks. Doing so ensures that employees have correct working postures and workstation setup.

A good ergonomic assessment checklist can be used to help reduce an employee’s exposure to physical injury resulting from improper postures and repetitive tasks.

What Needs to be Checked on an Ergonomic Assessment Form?

By taking just a few steps, you can make your workplace and that of your employees more ergonomic. Check the following elements in your office space.

  • Screen size and screen setting
  • Desk size
  • Office chair
  • Office space
  • Lighting ratios

How to Improve Your Workspace Ergonomic Assessment Checklist?

Review Existing Data

The first step in an ergonomic assessment is reviewing existing data from previous ergonomic assessment checklists. You need to take a look at history so you can use the data as a baseline for understanding work-related injuries that occurred in the past.

Some documents that you can use in this case are:

  • Accident, and near-miss investigation reports
  • First aid logs
  • Injury and illness logs
  • Insurance company reports
  • Safety committee meeting minutes
  • Workers’ compensation reports

This will help you discover recurrent injuries, complaints, and issues related to the workplace environment and design. It can serve as a yardstick necessary for measuring the success of workplace redesign.

Establish a Standard Ergonomic Assessment Process

After your initial ergonomic assessment, you will need to perform a follow-up ergonomic evaluation. Doing so will measure the effectiveness of your office redesign and identify risk factors and improvement opportunities. An ergonomic evaluation form can prove useful for this task.

A few tools you can use to determine ergonomic risk factors are:

  • Hand-Arm Vibration (HAV) CalculatorHand-arm vibration syndrome (HAVS) is an occupational disorder affecting employees that use vibrating tools. It can cause disability and poor quality of life in the long run. To avoid HAVS, you should limit the amount of vibration your employees are exposed to at work with the help of an HAV calculator.
  • Rapid Entire Body Assessment (REBA) – REBA measures the risks of Musculoskeletal Disorders (MSD) in your employees. It also assesses the risks presented by various tasks associated with ergonomic design. It looks at the muscle activity of workers during static, changing, unstable, and dynamic postures.
  • Rapid Upper Limb Assessment (RULA) – RULA is used during ergonomic assessments in workplaces where employees report work-related upper limb disorders. It is a survey method developed for assessing the postures of the neck, trunk, and upper limbs. It also evaluates muscle function and the external loads to the body caused by work-related tasks.
  • WISHA Caution Zone Checklist and WISHA Hazard Zone Checklist – Washington Industrial Safety and Health Act (WISHA) is the first fully operational state safety and health plan approved by the United States federal government. The checklist assesses these movements or postures of your employees as they perform their jobs:
    • Awkward posture
    • High hand force
    • Highly repetitive motion
    • Repeated impact
    • Heavy, frequent, or awkward lifting
    • Moderate to high hand-arm vibration
  • WISHA Lifting Calculator or NIOSH Lifting Equation – Lifting and lowering heavy objects without the help of a machine poses risks of injury to the body. The WISHA Lifting Calculator and NIOSH Lifting Equation are tools used to evaluate the hazard level of certain tasks.
  • Snook Tables – Dr. Stover Snook and Dr. Vincent Ciriello at the Liberty Mutual Research Institute for Safety developed the Snook Tables. This can help you find acceptable weight and force values during the performance of manual handling tasks. This includes carrying, pulling, pushing lifting, and lowering.

Do a Gemba Walk

The term Gemba has a Japanese origin and it means the real place. In Lean Management, Gemba is where the actual work occurs, and is, therefore, the most important place for the organization.

Taiichi Ohno, who is considered the father of just-in-time production, developed the Gemba walk concept.

This lean manufacturing tool requires managers and leaders to walk around their offices so they can discover activities that waste employees’ time. After doing so, leaders must ask the team about the problems and issues they experience. For example, you can take this as an opportunity to help your employees with their Computer Workstation Ergonomics Self-Assessment Checklist.

The Gemba walk is not about showing people you are the boss. It is about collaboration and solving problems together with your team. Use an ergonomic workstation assessment form to record your findings.

Create a Priority List

After reviewing incident and injury data, observing, and talking to your employees, you are ready to create a priority list. This list must include tasks and departments that need a comprehensive ergonomic assessment.

Using this priority list and your chosen methodology and tools, you can create a customized Ergonomic Assessment Checklist or use a ready-made Ergonomic Risk Assessment Checklist as your guide.

Craft Your New Ergonomic Assessment Plan

Now you are ready to put your research into action. Bring your team together and use your findings to create a strategy for dealing with risks. There’s no cookie-cutter approach to mitigating ergonomic injury, but a well-planned ergonomic assessment checklist will help you reduce risks at your workplace.

An ergonomic, black keyboard used to prevent carpal tunnel

How to Write an Ergonomic Assessment Report?

Now that we’ve discussed some tried and true methods of analyzing workplace ergonomic data, we’ll dive into some of the best techniques suited to writing your own ergonomic assessment. It’s unlikely that a premade template will cover all the ergonomic hazards your workplace and employees face on a daily basis, however, it can be a good place to get started. That’s why many companies model their own off of templates so that they may cater to the specific needs of their employees.

Below are 5 writing tips that will make your assessments and checklists clearer, more intuitive, and easier to read and understand:

  1. Think of Specific Workplace Tasks

    When doing any kind of writing, it’s important to think about your audience. In this case, it will be your employees and the specific tasks and motions they make repetitively. This may seem like common sense, but you wouldn’t believe how many people make this mistake. Some assessments fail to take into account every avenue that might lead to ergonomic failures. Failure to think of every eventuality leads to failure in writing and, ultimately, ends in injury.

  2. Learn the Common MSDs

    To write an assessment of any kind, you must first become an expert in the field. Learn about the different musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) that are common to the line of work your employees do on a day-to-day basis. Learning what causes these disorders is the first step to preventing them.

  3. Keep Later Analysis in Mind

    You want to write your checklist in a format that will make later analysis and review easier to understand and evaluate. Tips for doing this include writing a series of questions with a simple yes and no response. In this case, open-ended questions are unnecessary. Leave that for the comments section where employees can address any additional concerns not listed in the assessment. The good news is that, with the Lumiform app, collected data is automatically bundled into a report so you don’t have to.

  4. Do the Research

    Unfortunately, writing your own checklist isn’t as simple as sitting down at a desk with pen in hand and paper underneath. 90% of the writing process is consumed by research. For the

    purposes of this writing assignment, the best research you can perform is to spend the day in the life of your employees. Perform their job functions, live their nine-to-five grind, and take notes along the way. What hazards are they exposed to? Think of any repetitive movements or incorrect postures and positions.

  5. Use Low-Level Vocabulary

    The average person in the United States reads at an eighth-grade reading level. You might have spent the time to become an expert, but your reader hasn’t. It won’t help to throw around big words that no one understands just to make yourself sound smart. It most likely won’t hit its mark, and your employees will most likely not look up its definition.

At the end of the day, probably the most important tip to writing a checklist is to write more than one. A single checklist is not going to be the end all be all of ergonomic risk assessments. Until the human race evolves to accommodate a sedentary lifestyle, there will always be a need to assess and reassess the workplace for vulnerabilities that could affect the fragile human condition.

How Often Might Ergonomic Training be Offered in the Workplace?

Especially now that home office is gaining popularity, employers need to make at-home ergonomic risk assessments a compulsory part of the job. That’s because most people’s home offices aren’t set up for maintaining an eight-hour plus workday. When the COVID-19 pandemic first broke out, the ‘home office’ was a small space to pay bills or shoot out a quick email. For some, it was the kitchen table, others the couch, while others still didn’t have one. But one thing they all have in common is they weren’t set up for maintaining an office-bound lifestyle.

There are currently no OSHA regulations that state employers must provide an ergonomic risk assessment of the workplace, however, it’s to the employers benefit to do so. This is because ergonomic injuries are recognized as a valid reason to receive worker’s compensation, which the employer is ultimately responsible for.

Most office workers don’t know they are practicing unergonomic positions, postures, or activities until they feel pain. By then it’s too late. The damage is already done. And most people

who try to unkink the knot in the back or heal the carpal tunnel find that it’s a whole lot harder and takes a lot more time to undo the damage than it was to accrue in the first place. That’s why employers will find that establishing a scheduled ergonomic assessment is worth their time and money.

Since there are no laws regulating how often employers are required to perform this evaluation, the frequency of such audits falls to the decision-making power of the employer. Nonetheless, Lumiform recommends performing an ergonomic evaluation once every year in order to counteract the injuries formed by ill-advised workplace habits. We calculated this number based on the fact that forming new, unhealthy habits are not restricted within any timeframe.

Assessing and reassessing the workplace for common ergonomic inaccuracies is essential to providing employees with a safe work environment, which is an official OSHA requirement.

How Long Does an Ergonomic Assessment Take?

Depending on the size of the company and the number of workers will determine how long an assessment will take. That said, they typically take anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour. Considering the benefits — increased productivity, happier employees, savings on workers compensation, to name a few — thirty minutes to an hour every year is not that much time at all. There’s really no reason any company should go without them.

How Much Does an Ergonomic Assessment Cost?

In and of itself, an ergonomic evaluation won’t cost a dime. Other than the thirty minutes to an hour’s worth of salary it will take for an employee to perform the audit, the assessment is free. However, by encouraging good workplace ergonomic practices, that cost will be absorbed by higher productivity enjoyed by happy and healthy employees. Any indirect costs of the assessments will be spent on corrective measures, such as ergonomic office chairs, desks, monitors, mice, etc.

A Digital Solution for an Ergonomics Checklist

Using the digital application, you can easily carry out your ergonomics inspection via tablet or smartphone – online or offline. Thanks to the desktop software, you can create checklists and evaluate the data collected in the field. This significantly reduces the risk of workplace accidents and documentation errors.

Work absenteeism due to sick or injured employees is very costly. Protect your teammates and yourself by regularly checking compliance with all internal ergonomics standards via the mobile app. By regularly checking and easily analyzing the data in the Lumiform software, you can avoid lost wages and productivity. Benefit from more advantages with the Lumiform mobile application:

  • The flexible checklist builder from Lumiform helps you to convert any individual paper list into a digital checklist in seconds.
  • In addition, we offer more than over 12,000 ready-made templates to help companies get started digitally in no time.
  • Continuous increase in quality and safety: The flexible checklist toolbox allows you to continuously optimise internal audits and processes. Lumiform guides the auditor through the audit, so there is no need for training.

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