As a supervisor or manager, you are accountable for the actions and productivity of your staff. One area many fall short in is helping employees with injury prevention and management strategies. Management can often be “the weakest link” in the safety and workers’ compensation program as it is your accountability to the organization’s policies and procedures that sets the stage for your employees.
If you walk and talk the safety program, your employees will step up to participate. If you are supportive of their work injury, they will trust and respond favorably to the assistance you offer in getting them back to work.
Safety and Ergonomic Guidelines
On the contrary, if you are unaware of the safety rules including injury management policies and guidelines at your workplace, then your employees likely are as well. Essentially, employees often mirror supervisor actions and beliefs when it comes to organizational culture, especially the practices and procedures related to safety and ergonomics.
As a supervisor, you have a lot of control over what your employees do by prioritizing the importance of ergonomics in the workplace. If you are not confident in your ergonomics knowledge, it’s never too late to learn and bring your staff along with you. Working together on improving office ergonomics is fun and rewarding for both you and your team. It shows you care about their health, wellness, and safety. And that builds for a strong link and happy employees!
Below are ten strategies to integrate ergonomics into the workplace for improved injury prevention and ergonomics awareness.
10 Ergonomic Strategies for Supervisors
1. Perform a Weekly Walk-Through
Perform a regular weekly, walk-through of your department. Observe employee work practices, work techniques, postures, and work area set-ups. Look for awkward set up of monitors off center to keyboard and mouse; poor sitting postures; bent wrists; cushions and pillows added onto chairs. All these are signs something isn’t quite right!
2. Provide Educational Opportunities
Encourage employees to enroll in live or e-learning training such as our Office Ergonomics: Working in Comfort at least every one to two years. Make it mandatory for your department that all computer users attend so everyone will be on the same page with equal ergonomics knowledge and experience. Employees typically don't know or understand how to properly use ergonomic equipment. It's not intuitive so they need to be taught, as do you.
3. Create a Culture of Ergonomics
Encourage and correct unhealthy or non-neutral postures in a gentle way. Mother always said to “sit up straight”! Continue the mantra! Observe for employees seated fully in their chairs with their back well supported and feet on the floor. If they are sitting awkwardly forward in the chair, legs dangling, then the ergonomics of the chair and workstation aren’t correct. You’ll need to investigate further.
4. Correct Bad Habits and Unsafe Practices
Encourage and correct unsafe habits and inappropriate ergonomic equipment use such as leaning on the desk with the wrists while typing or using the mouse; cradling the phone when a headset has been provided; off-center placement of documents when a document holder is available or sitting awkwardly in their ergonomic chair. Make sure employees know the difference between safe and unsafe work practices. Remind employees how the equipment and tools your organization has provided are designed to adjust and match the employee’s needs.
5. Invite Discussion
If an employee is rubbing their neck, wrists, hands, or you see them wearing a wrist splint or building up their chair with pillows, or bringing in their own equipment like a large ball, inquire if they are uncomfortable. Invite them to discuss their concerns. Encourage early reporting of signs and symptoms so you can determine the next course of action whether to go to occupational health or to sign up for a preventive ergonomic evaluation.
6. Promote Mini-Breaks
Promote and provide time for mini-breaks of one to 3 minutes’ length while in the work area for standing, stretching in the office, task rotation or interruption frequently throughout the day. This includes effective use of any sit to stand workstations you might have in the office.
7. Purchase Good Ergonomic Equipment
Assist with obtaining the quality “ergonomic” tools, and accessories employees need to perform more effectively and more comfortably as soon as you are notified of the need. It's not appropriate for employees to select their own chairs or equipment without an ergonomic evaluation or training to support the decision on what to buy and how to properly select ergonomic equipment.
8. Keep Track of Equipment
Report broken chairs and other ill-fitting equipment, along with installation needs to Facilities, Purchasing or IT quickly to reduce risk and improve the efficiency of all equipment. Replace items that can’t be repaired, especially chairs. An old, failing chair at the end of its lifecycle is harmful to your employees’ health and productivity. Learn to recognize whether you should keep, repair or replace your chairs to avoid discomfort with seated work tasks.
9. Review Ergonomic Reports With Employees
If your employees participate in ergonomic evaluations, be sure to review the ergonomic reports with them to make sure the concerns they have are identified and the actions recommended are helpful. Be transparent in the findings and recommendations to hold your employees accountable to the recommended changes as well as the actions you will take.
10. Document Activities
Most importantly, document all related activities in your Ergonomics Program file for good record-keeping and follow up after changes are made to assure the ergonomic and safety concerns have been resolved.
Improve Supervisor-Employee Relationships
By following these ten easy, time -efficient strategies, you and your employees will benefit in many ways from improved supervisor-employee relationships; better equipment use; more mindfulness with work postures and habits and much more. If your organization provides ergonomics training, make it a requirement for you and your employees to attend. Then have a meeting to discuss how ergonomics is impacting your department's health and productivity.
As the supervisor, your perception and how you value safety and ergonomics matters to your employees and your organization. Become the strongest link in your organization with these ten successful ergonomic strategies for supervisors and managers!
Share with us in the comments if you have had a recent "ergonomic win" with your employees. What strategies did you implement to help you?