Implement the Controls

Ideas for controls can be derived from a variety of sources. These ideas are in addition to those gained from brainstorming with employees who perform the jobs or from work teams engaged in such problem solving.

  • Trade associations may have information about good control practices for addressing different problem operations within an industry.

  • Insurance companies that offer loss control services to their policyholders.

  • Consultants and vendors who deal in ergonomic speciality services and products.

  • Visits to other worksites known to have dealt with similar problem operations.

Implementing controls normally consists of trials or tests of the selected solutions, making modifications or revisions, full-scale implementation, and follow-up on evaluating control effectiveness.

Testing and evaluation verify that the proposed solution actually works and identifies any additional enhancements or modifications that may be needed. Employees who perform the job can provide valuable input into the testing and evaluation process. Worker acceptance of the changes put into place is important to the success of the intervention.

After the initial testing period, the proposed solution may need to be modified. If so, further testing should be conducted to ensure that the correct changes have been made, followed by full-scale implementation. Designating the personnel responsible, creating a timetable, and considering the logistics necessary for implementation are elements of the planning needed to ensure the timely implementation of controls.

In a number of jobs, workplaces, and physical work activities, it may not be possible to eliminate MSDs. One of the goals of your ergonomics program is to have a good working system in place so that quick and effective action can be taken when MSDs occur.

Evaluate Control Effectiveness

A follow-up evaluation is necessary to ensure that the controls reduced or eliminated the ergonomic risk factors and that new risk factors were not introduced. It should use the same risk factor checklist or other method of job analysis that first documented the presence of ergonomic risk factors. If the hazards are not substantially reduced or eliminated, the problem-solving process is not finished. Employees who perform the job can provide valuable input into the testing and evaluation process. Worker acceptance of the changes put into place is important to the success of the intervention.

The follow-up may also include a symptom survey, which can be completed in conjunction with the risk-factor checklist or other job analysis method. The results of the follow-up symptom survey can then be compared with the results of the initial symptom survey (if one was performed) to determine the effectiveness of the implemented solutions in reducing symptoms.

When to Conduct the Follow-Up

Because some changes in work methods (and the use of different muscle groups) may actually make employees feel sore or tired for a few days, follow-up should occur no sooner than one to two weeks after implementation, and a month is preferable. Recognizing this fact may help avoid discarding an otherwise good solution.

Follow-up is also essential in those cases where there is a need to prioritize the control of hazards. It tells whether you are on schedule with abatement plans. And, it's a good way of determining whether the elements of the program are functioning properly. For example, evaluating controls, especially work practice controls, is one way to determine whether the ergonomics training has been effective. Many employers evaluate controls within 30 to 60 days after implementation. This gives employees enough time to get accustomed to the controls and to see whether the controls have introduced other problems into the job.

In addition to the short-term evaluations using job analysis methods and symptom surveys, long-term indicators of the effectiveness of an ergonomics program can include:

  • Reduction in the incidence rate of musculoskeletal disorders,

  • Reduction in the severity rate of musculoskeletal disorders,

  • Increase in productivity or the quality of products and services, or

  • Reduction in job turnover or absenteeism.

These indicators offer bottom-line results in evaluating interventions that have been put into place. Other indicators may also be used that represent in-process or interim accomplishments achieved on the path to building an ergonomic program. For example, the extent of the ergonomic training given the workforce, the number of jobs analyzed for potential problems, and the number of workplace solutions being implemented are indicators for evaluating the success of your interventions. While bottom-line results are most telling in terms of defining a successful program, the interim measures allow the total development to be monitored.

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