One of the purposes of training and education is to ensure that employees are sufficiently informed about the ergonomic hazards to which they may be exposed so they are better able to participate actively in their own protection. Suggestions and input from workers who are educated about ergonomic hazards can be very helpful in designing improved work practices to reduce ergonomic hazards.
A good ergonomics education and training program will teach employees how to properly use equipment, tools, and machine controls, as well as the correct way to do a variety of job tasks. For example, to minimize or prevent back disorders, workers can be taught proper postures and lifting techniques. Using correct posture is important whether an employee is sitting, standing, pulling, pushing, lifting, or using tools or equipment or whether the job is in a factory setting or an office setting.
Employees need access to MSD information in order to be alert to the onset of signs or symptoms and to effectively participate in the ergonomics program, as well as to protect themselves while at work. You should provide the information periodically, that is on a regular basis appropriate for the conditions in the workplace.
That means as often as needed, such as when significant changes are made in the workplace that may result in increased exposure to MSD hazards. Examples of significant changes in the workplace include the introduction of new equipment, new processes, or new production demands that may increase the likelihood that employees will be exposed to MSD hazards.
The information provided to current and new employees (either written or oral) should include:
Common MSD hazards;
The signs and symptoms of MSDs and the importance of reporting them early; and
How to report MSD signs and symptoms.
There are many practical ways to present the information. One method that aids the understanding of technical information is to allow employees an opportunity to ask questions and receive answers. Examples include question and answer sessions that are:
Organized classroom style;
Part of regularly scheduled meetings with employees and their supervisors;
An outgrowth of informal talks with employees; and
Incorporated into safety meetings.
Merely arranging for employees to view a videotape on common MSD hazards, without an opportunity for discussion or questions and answers, won't ensure that the information has been effectively communicated. Provide the information in the language and at levels that employees comprehend.
While training and education are an important part of an ergonomic hazard prevention program, they should not be considered the sole solution to the problem. Training in good lifting techniques, for example, is only likely to change existing employee habits for a short period of time. After that, people begin to forget and old habits return. Regular retraining is necessary in order to refresh memories.
Also, training will have a limited impact on an employee whose job still requires a great deal of repetitive motion, twisting, or heavy lifting. In these instances, the problem lies not with the person performing the job, but with the job itself. Other prevention strategies will need to be used in addition to training in order to improve the job such as tool or workstation redesign.