How does an employee ergo survey help?

We use surveys to gather information from people we do not have an opportunity to meet personally, perhaps because they work on other shifts, or in remote locations. We also use surveys when we want to give people time to consider their responses. Here are a few of the types of surveys we use at Taylor’d Ergonomics:

  • supervisor surveys focus attention on issues within a department
  • customer satisfaction surveys gather information about our performance so we can improve
  • employee-engagement surveys help to understand the impact an ergo change could have on absenteeism and turnover
  • pre-assessment surveys ask about discomfort, concerns, ideas (in office and industrial environments)
  • follow up surveys confirm that a change was effective (and allow us the opportunity to offer further suggestions if needed)

In this article, I want to focus on pre-assessment surveys in industrial environments. Our surveys are an optional part of our assessment process. They are subjective, meaning that they are based on opinions, and so they cannot replace an objective, measurement-based risk assessment. But they do provide useful information. Some employers don’t want us to survey their employees, but when we do, the results can be fascinating:

When all of the 20 workers on this job have a concern….

Given the opportunity to speak anonymously, workers may be more likely to report their concerns. The employer might have the impression that an issue is isolated to only one or two employees, but a survey may show that the concern is widespread. As an employer, wouldn’t that make you feel more compelled to address the issue?

When only one of the 20 workers on this job has a concern….

Conversely, the employer might think that a concern is common to all employees on a job, and the survey may reveal that it is, in fact, only a couple of employees who experience the problem. This can help to focus the assessment. Perhaps this issue is related to a particular body size, hand dominance, or previous injury.

Can a survey help us to cost-justify a change?

We’ve started to ask employees how often musculoskeletal discomfort impacts their productivity or quality. Their responses are subjective, but it’s still surprising to me that employees often report that they are taking extra breaks or making errors every day. This “data” doesn’t contribute directly to cost justification, but it definitely creates a crumb trail for us to follow.

Why are some employers reluctant to use surveys?

I think employers expect that the survey will be an opportunity for workers to complain about issues that cannot be changed. They expect suggestions such as:

  • Give us more people to do the work.
  • Slow the line down.

Do we see these? Yes, of course. But we also get more actionable suggestions such as:

  • Provide a ramp on the back of the truck
  • Repair the existing manual handling equipment so it can be used
  • Maintain the door latches
  • Put stoppers on the door so the bin can be pushed more easily
  • Replace the chemical dispenser hoses with longer ones
  • Raise the packing conveyor
  • Store “heavy” items closer to the floor and organize the pick-list so that they are retrieved first

The suggestions provided in the survey are not always the ideal solution for everyone, but they are a great place for the ergonomist to start. The worker, who does the job every day, often has the best ideas to improve the job.

Want to learn more about how we use supervisor and engagement surveys in our process? Join us for our Productivity, Employee Engagement, and Quality through Ergo (Operation PEEQ) workshop on April 6.

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