When a client asks for “proof” that our services reduce injury rates, I am sadly at a loss. We can point to research that proves the effectiveness of various types of interventions (Goggins et al, 2008 being a favourite ), but we have precious little proof of how effective our own projects have been. Why is that? Simply put, if the client thinks our intervention idea was not effective, they won’t want to pay us to prove it. If they think our intervention idea was effective, they’d rather pay us to come up with another one, than spend the time to prove that the last one worked.
We’re pushing a little bit harder for numbers because at some point someone in accounting is bound to ask, “How do we know we’re getting good value for this consulting budget?” Injury statistics and costs are the most powerful, but anyone who has tried to use these will understand the challenges. Injury costs are difficult to track back to specific incidents, and injury records are rarely tied to a specific task. And then there are many confounding factors….production rates increase, previously-injured people are moved to lower-risk jobs, etc…
Employee ergo surveys, while susceptible to bias, nevertheless provide us with a powerful data source. A survey can gather information about discomfort in a way that can be scored – we can tell the employer that, on average, people are experiencing moderate discomfort, on a frequent basis. Even if the employer is skeptical about the reliability of employee discomfort reports (thinking…squeaky wheel…) if we get a good survey response and everyone is reporting discomfort, it’s hard to dismiss. What we especially love about our survey is that it is a quantitative (numerical) baseline score. After we implement a change, we can survey again and show a measurable improvement. (We’ve done this, and published the results, for office ergo assessments, but we don’t yet have any shareable results for industrial projects.)
Our surveys also ask employees to describe their concerns and any ideas that they have for improving the job. We ask these questions when we are in the field, naturally, but the survey allows us to hear from more people – all shifts, all lines, all people who rotate through the job. This makes everyone feel “heard”, more effectively than asking them to relay their concerns through a supervisor or JHSC member.
We’ve recently added questions to our survey about productivity and quality. Wouldn’t you want to know if employees think that their discomfort is impairing their productivity, or the quality of their work? Even if these are subjective data points (i.e. employee opinion), they are powerful indicators that ergonomics intervention should lead to improved performance.
A message to clients who have implemented the control measures that we recommended, please take up this challenge! Contact us for a follow-up survey, so we can help you prove that ergonomics is working in your facility.
Want to help us prove that ergonomics makes a measurable difference? Contact us for an ergo (risk) assessment quote. Or, better yet, let us help you set up an ergo program that routinely gathers before and after data.