Designing a Successful Ergonomics Program for Minnesota Companies

Discover the key elements to create a successful ergonomics program for companies that enhances employee well-being and productivity.

Minnesota passes Ergonomic Program: Statute 182.677

Ergonomics just got a big bump in Minnesota! Effective January 1, 2024, a written ergonomics program is required for companies in three targeted industries: healthcare facilities such as outpatient surgical centers and nursing homes; meatpacking plants with over 100 employees; and warehouses with over 100 employees. For these facilities already strapped for resources, dwindling profits, and a host of other regulations and statues to adhere to, this is no small task. This short article gives some starting points for managers and directors working to comply with the status in time.

The Minnesota Ergonomics program requires a written policy and procedure, an ergonomic committe with employee involvement, regular ergonomic assessments that aim to reduce or mitigate employee risk of injury, and an annual assessment of the overall program's effectiveness. Sound daunting? Yep, it's a big ask. Let's go over a few of the key points here.

What is Ergonomics and Why Does it Matter?

Ergonomics means the study of work, or how the worker and the work environment interact. Ergonomics plays a crucial role in creating a safe and healthy work environment for employees. It involves designing workspaces and tasks to fit the capabilities and limitations of all workers, thereby reducing the risk of musculoskeletal disorders and injuries. By prioritizing ergonomics, companies can enhance employee well-being, increase productivity, and reduce absenteeism and turnover rates.

Overall, understanding the importance of ergonomics in the workplace is vital for companies looking to create a healthy and productive work environment. And, for three industries in Minnesota, it is now mandated by MN OSHA.

Conducting a Comprehensive Ergonomic Assessment

An ergonomic assessment can be completed by a company representative, a trained member of the ergonomic committee, or a third party who is hired to spearhead the program. An honest assessment of the skills of current staff and their ability to perform ongoing ergonomic assessments is a good place to start. This assessment involves evaluating various factors such as workstation layout, equipment design, work processes, and determining employee injury risk. 

During the assessment, it is crucial to involve employees in identifying potential ergonomic issues and gathering feedback on their work environment. This collaborative approach ensures that the program considers the unique needs and perspectives of the workforce.

By conducting a thorough ergonomic assessment, companies can identify areas for improvement and develop targeted solutions to address ergonomic risks. This assessment serves as the foundation for designing an effective ergonomics program that meets the specific needs of the company and also meets the Minnesota statute. Determining solutions to the results of the assessment may be the most challenging component of the process however.

Implementing Ergonomic Solutions

Once the ergonomic assessment is complete, it is time to implement ergonomic solutions to address identified risks. This involves making necessary changes to workstations, equipment, and processes to optimize ergonomics and reduce the likelihood of employee injuries.

Some common ergonomic solutions include providing adjustable furniture and equipment, utilizing improved tools and equipment, and even redesigning the workspace. When the equipment or area cannot be changed, then changing how the employees perform the job is the next best thing. Implementing regular and ongoing training in good posture and body mechanics, and incorporating regular breaks and stretching exercises into the work routine are to be considered an ergonomic solution too.

It is essential to prioritize employee involvement and engagement during the implementation phase. Engage employee feedback surveys, request input, and utilize communication methods already in place to highlight employee suggestions and involvement. Employees should be educated about the benefits of the ergonomic solutions and trained on how to use the new equipment or follow the revised processes correctly. It is critical to communicate the changes and reasons clearly, frequently, and with full support of managers, supervisors, leads, and corporate team.

By effectively implementing ergonomic solutions, companies can create a safer and more comfortable work environment, leading to improved employee well-being and productivity.

Training Employees on Ergonomic Best Practices

To ensure the success of an ergonomics program, it is crucial to provide training to employees on ergonomic best practices. This training should cover topics such as proper posture, lifting techniques, workstation setup, and the importance of taking regular breaks.

Training sessions can be conducted through workshops, presentations, or online modules, depending on the company's resources and preferences. It is essential to make the training interactive and engaging, allowing employees to ask questions and provide feedback. Utilizing a third party expert to lead the training can demonstrate the company's committment to employee safety and involvement.

By equipping employees with the knowledge and skills to apply ergonomic principles in their daily work, companies can empower them to take an active role in maintaining their own well-being. Regular refresher training sessions should also be conducted to reinforce the importance of ergonomics and address any emerging issues. Ongoing ergonomic training is required by the Minnesota statute, but most importantly, training employees on ergonomic best practices is a crucial step in ensuring long-term success and sustainability of the ergonomics program.

Monitoring and Evaluating the Effectiveness of the Ergonomics Program

After implementing an ergonomics program, it is a requirement of the Minnesota statute to monitor and evaluate the program effectiveness. Regular assessments and feedback from employees can help identify any areas that require further improvement or adjustment.

Companies can use various methods to monitor the effectiveness of the program, such as conducting surveys, analyzing injury and absenteeism data, and observing work practices. This data can provide valuable insights into the impact of the ergonomics program on employee well-being, productivity, and overall organizational performance.

Based on the evaluation results, companies can make necessary modifications to the program to ensure its continued success. It is also essential to maintain open lines of communication throughout the evaluation process with employees, encouraging them to continue to report any ergonomic concerns or suggestions for improvement. The goal is that by the end of the year, a culture of ergonomic assessment, improvement, and evaluation has reduced employee injuries. THis is good for all of Minnesota.

As a Minnesota company who specializes in ergonomics and injury prevention, ErgoWorks has services, programs, and training for companies seeking to comply with the new statute. We are here to help companies be successful in this new chapter in the safety of Minnesota employees!

About the author

Beth Mayotte

As the owner of ErgoWorks, I have the treasured opportunity to work with companies to provide onsite injury prevention and ergonomics. I am a licensed Occupational Therapist and certified in Industrial Ergonomics. With experience in work conditioning, Functional Capacity Evaluations, return to work programming, post offer testing, and job analysis, I can help employers determine the best use of their time and money to decrease costs in health care utilization and work comp costs. As a Minnesota company that specializes in this industry, ErgoWorks has garnered the recognition and respect of the Twin Cities to prevent injuries for our clients.