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How does an ergonomist work in industry?

You are a company manager, a production manager or a workshop manager, your employees complain of pain (back, joints)? Are there jobs that are subject to higher than normal absenteeism or high turnover? A workstation has generated a work stoppage for an occupational disease or a chronic illness?

In one of these cases, it is probably urgent for you to call upon an ergonomist in order to analyze the dangerous workstations and optimize the safety, quality and productivity of your company.

Published on 7 January 2021 - Manut-LM

Ergonomist: Everything you need to know about the profession of ergonomist?

An ergonomist’s mission is to optimize work situations in order to preserve the health of employees and to increase the quality, efficiency, productivity and overall performance of the job.

If necessary, he prescribes tools, improves the existing ones, recommends adapted material or modifies the processes to make the performance and the quality at work sustainable and general.

To carry out its mission, it is necessary to understand how employees interact with their work environment, what their missions are, their work methods and to collect concrete data in order to have a complete and exhaustive overview.

The goal for the employer is to avoid being at the origin of dysfunctions that could lead to consequences much more harmful and costly than the cost of an ergonomist’s intervention: MSD, work stoppages for professional illness, accidents, disruption of the production chain…

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How do I choose the ergonomist who will accompany me?

In order to find the right ergonomist firm, you must first of all draw up the specifications adapted to your needs and your company.

After consultation with several potential partners, it is best to base your decision on certain criteria:

  • Did the ergonomist understand the request, the stakes, the constraints, the environment ? Is it used to auditing companies in my sector of activity? Does he have any recommendations?
  • What methodology will he use? What tools? How will the service be carried out, how much analysis time is required?
  • What are the deliverables at the end of the audit?
  • How soon is it available and how long does the service last?
  • Based on these elements, what is the quality/price ratio of the proposed service? Beware, the lowest bidder is not always the best option?

Learn more about ergonomists

What does the ergonomist do in concrete terms? First, the analysis!

The first phase consists of analyzing the tasks assigned to each operator on the workstation concerned. Observation, understanding of the process, exchange with the employees and their managers in order to understand the stakes, the constraints, the reasons of the current operation.

The ergonomist will therefore take into account human characteristics in the design of industrial facilities and environments.
He will also have to identify the tools used, their interest, the layout of the station, the flows to evaluate the danger points, what can be improved and what should be kept.

In other words, the ergonomist will audit what is operational (gestures, postures, etc.) and what is organizational (time, range, organization of workstations and logistic flows, etc.), as well as the context of implementation, architectural constraints…

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What tools does the ergonomist use?

Numerous methods of ergonomics analysis exist, some widely used, others can be developed specifically by an ergonomics firm.

It is important to choose the provider that you feel is best suited to your context and needs. Trust and affinity are also key criteria for working in a calm and transparent manner.

In concrete terms, these tools can be forms to be filled out by employees, individual or group interviews, connected suits to be put on during operations so that an adapted software can identify the “hot spots” in the joints, connected cameras, 3D visualizations on a digital mannequin, etc.

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What are the points to watch out for when an ergonomist is involved?

For an MSD prevention diagnosis, with the aim of improving the working environment and long-term performance, care must first be taken to draw up an exhaustive set of specifications, without censoring oneself and by involving all the stakeholders concerned.

The important thing is then to make sure that the operators work in front of the ergonomist as they really do on a daily basis and not in a watered down version because we are being observed.

It is also essential to take into account not only the physical but also the psychosocial aspects of the work.

In order to achieve this step, it is vital to involve employees in the audit and transformation of their workstations.

What deliverables should I require from an ergonomist?

At the end of the audit phase of the workstation(s), the ergonomist will prescribe optimizations.

The form of the deliverable does not matter: Word document, PowerPoint, oral presentation… The important thing is to demand that the workplace be sustainably transformed in order to achieve the objectives set: health, quality and performance.

What are these requirements?

  • A complete rewrite of the workstation indicating how the operations should be performed.
  • A new organization of flows, processes, possibly schedules.
  • An inventory of the resources available to employees (in people, tools, machines, etc.) in order to know whether or not these elements make it possible to work without risking MSDs.
  • Concrete recommendations for tools adapted to the needs of employees, in line with your budget, your environment and your new organization.
  • Training of employees and supervisory staff on new ways of working, tools. Support over several sessions is generally essential.
  • Obtain tools and knowledge that allow your company to gain autonomy on the approach to reducing MSDs and improving working conditions and to integrate ergonomic principles into your future industrial projects.

What is the cost of an ergonomic service?

It is estimated the cost of a complete ergonomist study service on a simple workstation between 3500 € and 5000 € depending on the ergonomists. Depending on the scope of the ergonomics audit and the number of workstations to be analyzed, it is not uncommon to see amounts of up to € 30,000 for a complete plant.

When the company becomes too important, the choice is often made to integrate an Ergonomist position into the workforce in order to benefit from this added value in the long term and to keep the knowledge internally.

The cost of a detailed audit with specific recommendations will vary according to many criteria such as:

  • How many positions are analyzed?
  • How many employees do you hold this position?
  • How many operations are there on this item?
  • What is the quality of the supports and tools used by the ergonomist?
  • What experience and expertise does your partner have?
  • Do you want a one-off audit or do you want to set up long-term support?
  • Do you expect to receive training at the end of the service?

Obtain a grant for support from an ergonomist

It is possible to benefit from funding from your prevention organization (CARSAT, CRAMIF, etc.) if you use an ergonomist to reduce the risk of MSDs in your company.

Many devices exist and it is sometimes complicated to navigate. The easiest way is to ask your ergonomist who will be able to direct you to the right interlocutors.

Be aware that support organizations vary depending on the size of your organization, your sector of activity or the type of service you are requesting. Find out more before you start the process.

IMPORTANT: Know that when you use an ergonomist for the prevention of MSDs, you also make yourself potentially eligible for subsidies for the purchase of equipment that will relieve operators and make them work faster and better.

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