Workplace Ergonomics: What to Expect from a Job Analysis

[fa icon="calendar'] May 15, 2015 8:00:00 AM / by Deborah Lechner

Ergonomics in the workplace is an important concept because your employees are important. Some jobs are inherently physically demanding, but even desk jobs can present ergonomic challenges. Whether you're in a hiring phase and want to ensure new employees are up to the physical demands of a job in the screening process or your organization has experienced workplace injuries and you want to prevent them from reoccurring, you're wise to review workplace ergonomics on a regular basis.

Specialists in workplace ergonomics perform job analyses to help employers assess ergonomic factors that affect their employees. Job analysis must be thorough and must cover both observational data and hard data obtained through very specific types of measurement. Here's what you should expect if you request job analysis with respect to ergonomics in the workplace and have a goal of reducing injury and the associated relief to the bottom line that goes with it.

Why Observation is Important to Job Analysis

Simple observation is essential to performing an effective workplace ergonomics job analysis. A systematic observation session can involve videotaping and writing extensive notes. Much can be learned by observing work processes in action, such as improper posture or technique on the part of the worker. Observation is essential to a thorough job analysis, but it isn't enough. Information gathered through observation supplements objective measurements, and objective measurements supplement observation. Both are required for a comprehensive and informative job analysis by workplace ergonomics experts.

Why Hard Data is Important to Job Analysis

To ensure ergonomics in the workplace meet regulations like those under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP), more than observation is required. Professionals who perform job analyses should spend time measuring the actual forces required to perform different jobs. The definition of "work" in a physical sense is force multiplied by distance, and measurement of forces and distances should be included in a thorough workplace ergonomics audit. An experienced ergonomist should explain which measurements will be taken, what they mean, and whether ergonomics in the workplace comply with applicable standards and guidelines.

Reasons for Having a Professional Job Analysis

Employers conduct ergonomic assessments in the workplace for many reasons. It may be something fairly straightforward, like when a company is ready to order new office furniture and wants to ensure what they order will allow employees to be comfortable, safe, and productive. Job analysis before hiring can help employers determine qualifications for a particular job so that potential applicants can be tested to determine their fit for the job. An employer might commission a job analysis when someone is scheduled to return to work after an injury or illness. Employers may require job analysis of workplace ergonomics in order to create job descriptions that comply with regulations under ADA, EEOC, and OFCCP. 

An Ounce of Prevention

The best time to have an ergonomic assessment in the workplace is before injuries or repetitive motion problems arise. If you're a business owner or executive, it is essential to remain aware of the physical demands of individual jobs. Understanding workplace ergonomics in your various work settings helps you hire the right people, reduce on-the-job injuries, meet regulations, and maintain a safe and productive workplace.

Job analysis and ergonomic assessment isn't complete without both direct observation of work being performed and measurement of the actual physical demands of a job. Investing the time and effort to put these periodic evaluations in place will give peace of mind, a healthier bottom line and a happier workforce.

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Deborah Lechner

Written by Deborah Lechner

Deborah Lechner, ErgoScience President, combines an extensive research background with 25-plus years of clinical experience. Under her leadership, ErgoScience continues to use the science of work to improve workplace safety, productivity and profitability.