Most EHS Managers understand that an ergonomic program requires a written program, assessment component, and training. While those standard elements are typical, what makes implementing a truly global ergonomic program complex is the varied requirements per country. So how can a global program be managed successfully?
Depending on your organization, one approach is to simply take the most stringent requirement and apply it to all your locations. This ensures consistency in method and delivery as well as a high-level service to your employees. You will also be well situated for any future changes in regulations.
That being said, this could be a challenging method. There isn’t one regulation that is the most stringent in all areas. While Ireland currently has the most stringent requirements for in-person training and assessments, other countries might have more stringent regulations for training frequency and workstation setup. That means more regulatory research and potentially a larger ergonomic team to ensure compliance. For larger organizations, this could be a great way to engage current employees to participate in aspects of environmental, health, and safety (EHS) within their workplace.
Another option is to focus efforts on where you have a requirement. Oftentimes, this is the easiest method to get management support because most companies at least want to be compliant. It will allow you to focus resources on a smaller set of sites. The struggle with this option is EHS teams usually take on the challenge of managing the regulations, attempting to manage consistency, and this could involve multiple local vendors to meet country-specific needs. You will most likely have varying levels of service, which for employees that might move between countries, could create tension.
Management System Approach
The management system approach allows you to set up a basic framework for all locations. Here you could develop the minimum standards that would apply to everyone. Within the management system would be the requirement to have sites develop their own site-specific plan. This allows for customization based on any additional local regulations. It makes both the EHS team and the site “step back” and think about their process and what is needed. It also gives every site a plan for dealing with ergonomics and creates a consistent procedure.
For this approach to work, you will need site support and engagement. This may mean a designated individual is responsible for site health and safety and creates the site-specific plan, or the EHS team may need to spearhead a working session with site stakeholders to get the site-specific plan done.
Don’t forget that in many countries a risk assessment is required, and ergonomics must be contemplated. Consider those working at desks, working from home, remote or alternate locations, ergonomics while driving (if required by work), and when employees become pregnant. If your risk assessment identifies these tasks as risks, then you will need to implement a way to manage the risk regardless of how you are managing your global ergonomic program.
Ergonomics may seem like an insignificant concern, but regardless of your industry, it is important. Ergonomic concerns can quickly lead to ergonomic discomfort and possibly injury. Often these types of injuries can take a long time to resolve leaving employees limited in their activities or possibly unable to work.
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