Our story, continued: The gaps we fill

Last week, I described how we came to be, and what we’re good at. I pointed out that I wanted us to have the opportunity to act as ergonomists, who facilitate improvements that reduce the risk of strains/sprain injuries, rather than consultants, who simply identify problems and suggest changes. It occurred to me, after posting that article, that I might have better served you by describing the gaps that I sought to fill, when I envisioned our services.  When I started Taylor’d Ergo 26 years ago, I had worked in the consulting business for about 5 years, and I had also worked as a site ergonomist. I believed that a traditional consulting approach didn’t seem to work well in ergonomics. Talking to clients convinced me that they weren’t 100% satisfied either.

Here’s what you can expect, if you work with a consultant rather than working regularly with one of our ergonomists. I’ve also described our solution to each challenge.

They’ll see what they see on the day of the visit. A consultant makes an appointment to come in for data collection. They will only observe what is happening, and they’ll talk to the employees on the job at that time. It’s unlikely that they’ll have an opportunity to chat with other shifts, or to see other products running. Employees will tell them, “You should have been here yesterday.”

  • At Taylor’d Ergo, an ergonomist is productive with analysis and writing when not making observations; you can interrupt us at any time to make observations of different people and products. Bonus: Booking full days on-site allows us to charge you a daily rate, instead of an hourly rate – money in your pocket, and a report that more accurately reflects the workers’ experience of the job.

They’ll get to your report when time permits. A consultant won’t turn down a project because they’re too busy; they’ll simply borrow time from another project. They’ll squeeze in report writing when they have time. It’s common to wait weeks to get a report.

  • At Taylor’d Ergo, an ergonomist prioritizes your projects above all else on the days s/he is assigned to work with you. We write your report while it’s fresh in our minds, and deliver a peer-reviewed draft immediately.

They are less accountable to provide feasible solutions. Someone wise once said that solutions are much easier to develop if you don’t know much about the problem. Because consultants only spend a few hours on-site, they may not understand the upstream and downstream processes, or the constraints you face. It’s easy to ship off a report before you’ve fully explored whether the solutions will work, and how effective they will be at addressing the risk.

  • At Taylor’d Ergo, we’ll be back next week…we would dare not show our faces if we provided hastily-developed recommendations. We do mock-ups of our recommendations, where possible, we talk through them with stakeholders, and we use our analysis tools to ensure that the recommendations address the risk. If we are “on-site ergo”, then we also do follow up, and write success stories to summarize projects. Do we make mistakes? Of course. But we learn, and our peer-review system helps us avoid repeats.

You’ll never know what they do in their office. As a consultant, years ago, I was often interrupted by calls and requests from other clients or colleagues. I billed my time to a project without much concern about accountability, as long as I got the client’s work done.

  • At Taylor’d Ergo, you can see first-hand what our ergonomist is doing in your facility, and we account for all of our time in our activity logs. We are fully dedicated to your projects while we are at your site.

They may not report their technical analyses, and they may not even compare job demands to ergonomics exposure guidelines. It’s common for consultants to provide a report that simply identifies issues and provides recommendations. Lots of recommendations. You’ll be challenged to figure out what is “nice-to-do” and what is necessary to mitigate risk.

  • A Taylor’d Ergo ergonomist provides the details of the analysis, and rates the risk against a standard. We use technical tools (biomechanical models, cumulative fatigue models, etc.), not checklists. Even if you don’t care about these details, you need to have them on file in case you’re asked by the Ministry.

You are a project, not a partner. You’ll get whatever they promised to provide in their quote. Nothing more. When the report is issued, the project is finished.

  • Our “On-Site Ergo” ergonomists are in the field with you, as partners in taking on whatever challenges you face. They work with employees, supervisors, engineers, and other stakeholders, and they bring challenging projects to our team for brainstorming. If training, or policies, or visual aids are part of the solution, we have the resources to deliver. They also provide free resources from our office such as bulletins, weekly ergo thoughts, ergo contests – these resources represent critically important program components that usually consume a lot of a site ergonomist’s time.

Each ergonomist unto him/herself. Most ergonomics consultants are hired by consulting firms or clinics with the assumption that they know what they’re doing, and they can use whatever tools they have available in their tool kit. Consulting companies may have report templates, but they rarely lay out a specific strategy for each type of project.

  • At Taylor’d Ergo, our ergonomists are trained to follow a consistent strategy for each project type, and we check in with each other when we have questions. Our training process for new ergonomists includes formal classroom training, and in-person mentorship, following a matrix. For each type of analysis or training, the ergonomist observes, performs under supervision, performs on own (always peer-reviewed), and eventually mentors others. Our team approach ensures that clients benefit from our collective experience. And it’s relatively easy for us to transfer a client to a new ergonomist, because we use such a standard approach. We even wear uniforms, so clients recognize and relate to us easily!

I’m not a boastful person by nature, so I hope this isn’t too much chest-thumping for one article. We aren’t perfect – we’ve learned so much over the years, and every day we come up with a new or better way to approach some aspect of our work. For companies with 100-750 employees (give or take), I truly believe that our on-site ergo program offers the best value for your ergonomics budget. For organizations that are larger or smaller, our ergonomists bridge program gaps with our ergonomics, training, and awareness services.

I have a vision that will allow even more clients to leverage our on-site ergo program in a really big, cost-effective way. Stay tuned.