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The different methods of ergonomics analysis

Ergonomics and handling: Ergonomics is becoming more and more important over the years. Regulations are becoming ever stricter and the working conditions of employees are under increasing scrutiny. In addition, by reducing the number of accidents or illnesses, ergonomics can increase efficiency and productivity.

Published on 14 May 2021 - Manut-LM

Ergonomics and handling: what is ergonomics?

Ergonomics is the scientific discipline that focuses on the fundamental understanding of the interactions between humans and other components of a system. It seeks to understand the interactions between Man and his work environment (tools, workplace, colleagues, deadlines, repetitions…) in order to control and reduce occupational risks. By applying theoretical principles and methods to optimize the well-being of workers, ergonomics seeks a better symbiosis.

There are two main currents in ergonomics: the Anglophone and the Francophone. The first one, also called “Human Factor”, is based on the knowledge of human capacities, each activity or workstation would be studied in comparison with a “standard man”. The second is oriented towards a knowledge of the activity, also called “ergonomics of the activity”. It is mainly interested in the theoretical tasks performed by the workers by observing them.

In order to fight against MSD, an ergonomic approach is essential.
It is important to know that in order to reach satisfactory conclusions and proposals, the ergonomic approach must have the following three characteristics: it must be global, participative and multidisciplinary.

It is by studying all the elements that it will be possible to know on which it is necessary or preferable to act and which are already adapted. This is also what will allow us to intervene globally on the workstation, beyond the adaptation to the operator himself.

It is the person in the job who can say which activity is the most painful for him or her, where he or she thinks he or she is “wasting time. In some situations, it can explain why certain tasks, which may be burdensome, cannot be changed. For example, the reason why a box cannot be brought closer to the machine, while it forces the machine to carry it itself (hygiene rules, quality, handling problems with the transport machines…).

Depending on the situation, other people may be involved: management or director, engineer, sociologist, psychologist, occupational physician, CHSCT (Health, Safety and Working Conditions Committee), etc. The combination of each point of view and each expertise will make it possible to bring out the most appropriate proposals that will suit the maximum number of people.

An Ergonomic Work Analysis (EWA) is the main tool for ergonomic intervention. It can help solve various problems related to working conditions or to the design of tools and equipment.

Ergonomics and handling: the intervention of an ergonomist

In the company, the ergonomist has several missions. Overall, its role is to guarantee and develop health and safety, but also to improve the working conditions of employees. For this, in addition to ergonomic studies, he can estimate the safety risk or give his opinion during modifications of workstations, make global proposals to improve industrial hygiene. It establishes a social dialogue between the operators and the hierarchy. After reformulating the company’s request in order to understand its motivations and goals, he or she specifies his or her positioning and prepares his or her intervention. He then analyzes the activity, the habits of the operators to understand the organization of the work.

There is a financial and time issue in hiring an ergonomist. The price of an ergonomist is around 800-1000€ HT / day, but this can vary up or down depending on the specialties of the consultant. Moreover, the whole company can be called into question if the workstations are not improved. Ergonomists require time from the hierarchy but also from the employees, which in the short term can reduce productivity.

The ergonomist will act in two different ways, either at the design stage as part of a preventive approach to ergonomics or at the correction stage of a workstation, thus improving the conditions of the workers after the fact.

Ergonomic design is involved from the design of a tool, a machine, a workstation or the entire workplace. It is used, among other things, in the design of workstations. At this stage, designers are concerned with preventing potential problems and take into account human characteristics. This is a proactive or preventive approach.

Corrective ergonomics is used when existing workplaces or working conditions need to be modified after problems have occurred. We then see that there was a bad design. However, this reactive approach is the most common, although it is less effective than usability design, and more expensive.

In most cases, companies opt for ergonomics when they are faced with a major occupational health and safety problem. The advantage of the ergonomic approach is then a reduction of musculoskeletal disorders and related costs.

Even if there are no serious problems, ergonomics can help improve working conditions. Companies are quickly discovering that ergonomic corrections can bring benefits. Increased productivity and work efficiency. Employee motivation. Reduced absenteeism. Improvement of the work climate. Increased product or service quality

These many advantages make an ergonomics program a very profitable investment.

The different methods used to analyze ergonomics.

Ergonomics and handling: there are many methods to evaluate biomechanical stresses. They provide results that must be explained in terms that the company can understand. No one method is superior to the others, as they all have their advantages and disadvantages.

Several factors and co-factors are to be taken into account in an ergonomic analysis: awkward postures (extreme joint positions), excessive efforts, repetitiveness, maintained position (static work of low level maintained in time), psychosocial risk factors also intervene through stress, cold, vibrations.

The interpretation of the results is done by means of evaluation tables or grids that vary according to the method used. Once completed by the persons concerned, the final result makes it possible to know the risk of musculoskeletal disorders of the professional task evaluated.

That is why the principle of each method remains the same:

PREPARE by determining the work cycle to be observed.

OBSERVE by selecting the posture to be evaluated. Decide which side of the body will be assessed or if too complex, assess both sides at the same time.

ASSESS by determining the score for each side of the body. Obtain the overall score and the associated risk level.

ANALYZE by receiving the notation for each body part to determine where actions are needed.

IMPROVE by adapting the workstation and introducing improvements to identified ergonomic risks.

REASSESS, once the changes have been made, reassess with the grid corresponding to the method used to validate the results.

Here is an example of some of his best-known methods:

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