What is the supervisor’s role in ergonomics?

A supervisor has a legislated responsibility for musculoskeletal injury prevention (aka ergonomics) that s/he rarely understands, and often has difficult fulfilling effectively. The supervisor needs to:

– be an expert in the best work practices that his or her workers are expected to use. Sometimes it’s difficult even for experienced workers to identify, agree on, and use the “best” practices. Different tasks warrant different techniques – compare moving a washing machine with lifting 4×8 piece of lumber. A supervisor might not have experience in jobs in his/her department, so it can be even more difficult for them to be the “expert”.

coach an employee through the processes of hazard identification, control, early signs and symptoms identification, and, if necessary, return to work. If you or your child have ever had a lousy coach, you understand that coaching doesn’t come easily to everyone. Communicating and demonstrating are learned skills, not innate abilities.

– take some responsibility for implementing control measures for musculoskeletal (aka “ergo”) hazards, such as job rotation schedules, new tools or PPE, and ensuring compliance with implemented control measures such as hoists or lift tables. S/he has to enforce the use of “need-to-do” control measures, and encourage the use of “nice-to-do” measures, and know the difference between the two.

A large organisation typically offers ergo resources to supervisors – engineers, ergonomists, crafty maintenance people, and return-to-work coordinators. In a smaller facility, the supervisor takes on a huge responsibility here – figuring out what to try, sourcing equipment, getting funding, and teaching people how to use new methods and equipment.

How can an ergonomist help?

–          We can train your supervisors to carry out their responsibilities

–          We can train your workers to use ergonomic work practices, specific to the type of work they do (Of course, the supervisors should participate in this training so they can follow up effectively!)

–          We can provide one-on-one job coaching to identify and encourage better work practices

–          We can provide ergo expertise where needed – to assess risk, identify solutions, and support return-to-work

If supervisors in your facility could use some support with ergonomics, give us a call (519 623 7733) or email carrie@taylordergo.com. We can help.

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