Ergonomics Working Group

Building a Sustainable Ergonomics Program

ERGON-AXIA Conference, Warsaw Poland, May 2000

Lee T. Ostrom, Theresa Lango Stack and Cheryl A. Wilhelmsen

ABSTRACT: A common term used by employees to describe the latest program implemented in companies is “Flavor of the Month.” This term is used to describe how fast some programs come and go and if you wait long enough management changes or priorities change and then the employees won’t have to do whatever it is anymore. It is difficult for employees, given this problem, to truly commit to changing, for instance, their behaviors because they know what is required today, will be gone tomorrow. The same goes for middle management that, most of the time, is left with implementing a program. Building sustainable processes/programs is, therefore, difficult. There are some things that can be done, however, to help ensure an ergonomics program doesn’t melt and go away, like last month’s flavor. This paper will explore the ideas we have tried and which ones have worked and which failed miserably. For instance, one of the worst things a company can do with ergonomics is to unwisely throw money at the problem. In numerous cases we have seen a company decide to do ergonomics and put a large sum of money towards the effort. However, when the injuries don’t instantly disappear, or in some cases (due to increased awareness) more injuries are reported, the company pulls the funding back. This, in fact, has the opposite of the desired effect and both the employees and management become soured.