Should Ergonomics Training Be Mandatory or Voluntary?

Posted by Alison Heller-Ono on October 3, 2019

Should Ergonomics Training be Mandatory or Voluntary

Training is an investment in your employees, your most critical asset and provides an opportunity to truly enhance performance, knowledge, and skills. Choosing to make it voluntary or mandatory is important in experiencing the desired outcome. Employers most often choose to offer ergonomics training on a voluntary basis rather than making it mandatory. When training is voluntary, it diminishes the importance and makes it optional. By doing so, the message is clear, “You don’t really need this; we are offering this because we think we should."

Why Management Support is Important

How can you hold your employees accountable for safe work practices and good ergonomics if the training you offer them is voluntary and optional? Those who attend training reap its value but it is often looked at as for employees only rather than supervisor/manager training as well. The result is lost credibility in delivering the importance of the message.

Disadvantages of Ergonomics Training Being Voluntary

After the voluntary ergonomics training, employees often go back to their supervisor or manager to discuss what they heard or saw and present ideas for how to prevent ergonomic injuries. But if neither the manager or supervisor attended the training, they may eschew or disregard the employee’s concerns and fail to follow through with a response to their needs.

Now what? The employee’s question or concern is diminished because their manager/supervisor disregarded the importance by not attending or participating in the ergonomics training. Now, the employee is more knowledgeable than their supervisor or manager. This can create a disconnect and undermine your efforts to provide training intended to reduce injuries and workers’ comp claims. Employees think, “If it’s not important to my manager or supervisor, why should I care?”

There goes your credibility with your employees and the whole reason you provided ergonomics training!

Education Fosters Good Ergonomics

If training is to be voluntary, then employers need to recognize there is little they can do to hold people accountable to the expected behaviors of good ergonomics. Ergonomics itself is not intuitive nor common sense. In order to be common sense, it must be commonly taught and commonly practiced! Not just delivered so you can check a box on a compliance checklist!

Whether voluntary or mandatory, ergonomics training is an essential component of your ergonomics program. When was the last time you held ergonomics training for your teams? Ergonomics is not always intuitive. Employees don't know how to use equipment properly or position their chair, keyboard, mouse, and monitor correctly. Training is essential for safe work practices and accountability. Giving your employees the opportunity to practice good ergonomics is a responsible and smart injury prevention strategy all employers should consider. After all, education always pays off for those who want to learn.

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