ISHN Guest BlogMaking sure that your workplace is as ergonomic as it can be is not only a way of setting things right, but it is also an effective means of preventing problems from occurring in the future. Positive changes aren't always calling out to be made. More often than not, it requires a good deal of initiative on behalf of management to see that all possible work is carried out.

An ergonomic workplace is important for everyone. Not only do ergonomic environments reduce the risk of staff members sustaining injury, but they can also speed work up, making processes more efficient. Here, we take a look at how to identify an ergonomic workplace, specifically considering five questions you can ask yourself to determine how ergonomic your workplace is today.

1. Are workers comfortable?

It's from your employees that you are likely to obtain most of your information about the state of the workplace. As the HSE's information on ergonomics and human factors at work  states, speaking with employees can be hugely valuable when it comes to ergonomics.

If employees report regular discomfort of some kind, there's probably something you can do to make their life easier. Acting in good time can reduce their risk of that pain becoming a long term injury. Fatigue is a matter of particular importance, accounting for £115-240 million each year in work-related accidents across the UK

2. Is your equipment up to date?

Good ergonomics are often down to high-quality, well-maintained machinery. If you are able to spot a weak point in your equipment, this is also likely to be a weak point in your workplace ergonomics. Anywhere in your workplace where you can spot improvisation – from signs to the machinery itself, it is important to take a closer look at whether the equipment provided may be out of date.

Signs are sometimes just as important as the machinery itself. In this respect, handwritten signs are always to be avoided. There's a greater likelihood that handwritten signs will be ignored by employees and visitors  and they may not comply with regulations. It is the responsibility of the employer to ensure that all signs are visible and clear, as well as seeing that any broken or missing notices are replaced promptly.

3. Do you carry out regular reviews?

Having a good working system in place is all very well, but it is essential that businesses pay attention to the way in which things change. Just as equipment can become worn, so too do processes change and methods adapt.

Bringing the ergonomics in your workplace up to scratch is not in itself sufficient for a safe and efficient working environment all year round. Reviews need to be carried out on a regular basis, ensuring not only that changes you've made in the past are still in place, but also that they are still effective. Recognising the way in which the needs of your workplace are changing is key to keeping things running smoothly.

4. Are your employees In good health?

Health is an important factor in ergonomics. Musculoskeletal disorders, which accounted for some 33% of all work-related illnesses in the U.S. during 2011, are a common concern for which employers need to be particularly vigilant.

Even if employees are injured at work, the cause of the injury might remain unclear. For this reason, employers cannot wait for complaints to be raised before taking action on their employees' health. Both employers and employees need to be aware of the kinds of injuries which can be sustained  when performing certain tasks.

If it is the case that one or more of your employees has sustained an injury which you believe could be related to their work, it is essential that you take action immediately. While certain types of injury could be unavoidable, there are usually a wide range of things which can be done to reduce the chance of your employees coming to harm during working hours.

5. Has productivity dropped?

The number one priority when we consider ergonomics in the workplace is undoubtedly the health of staff members. When trying to identify ergonomic issues, however, it's important for employers to recognise that productivity is inextricably linked to ergonomics.

A workplace where ergonomics has been carefully considered will not only be safer, but it will be more efficient and, ultimately, more profitable. This should be further motivation for employers to invest time and money in creating an ergonomic workplace.

A drop in productivity can be a good indicator that there remains work to be done on the ergonomic front. A fall in productivity often indicates that the system a company has in place has ceased to be efficient. Changes in productivity should, therefore, warrant a thorough review of ergonomics.