By Ann Hall, Staff Ergonomist

So, what are the best practices?

First, why do companies survey?

A well-executed survey collects data on how employees work and gives personalized feedback and training based on the employee responses. The information collected should help the company identify the workers who are experiencing discomfort and those showing significant risk factors for ­injury.

Good data lets them find the people with the greatest need, the soonest and focus on getting their issues resolved. Remember, without surveys, the person at the most risk or even discomfort might not ever let the company know there is a potential problem until it is too late. Ultimately, survey data should help companies get to employees BEFORE injury occurs.

It should also cut down on non-essential ergonomic visits and small equipment purchases by helping a large percentage of employees self-correct. Maybe they don’t need that footrest after all, perhaps they just needed to know how to correctly adjust the height of their chair.

Why many large companies use survey software, over the pen and paper model, besides the streamlining of processes and compliance documentation, is the real-time auto calculation of metrics. This means administrators are able to get a high level picture of the ergonomic program metrics at any time. These metrics help establish baselines, track program success, identify trends, and prioritize and plan resources.

Obviously, there are more reasons people survey, but this is the most common and basic: identify discomfort and/or risk, training and data.

Next, how often?

When you have answered the above, you can start to decide how often you need to survey to support what you wish to get out of the process. How often does the survey process need to happen to meet the goal?

For some organizations, this is a once a year survey for all employees. For other organizations, high risk and high employee turnover areas such as a call centers may have a more frequent survey. Some organizations, choose to do surveys in batches every month or quarter, verses all at once with all employees being surveyed at least every 18 months. The thought about longer duration between surveys is that there would be a greater chance of employee survey fatigue, thus more engagement in the survey.

After your general plan of execution on why, who and how often has been outlined. Consider the following best practices that we seem to see the most to compliment your plan:

An employee should take a survey when they have had a change in workstation or equipment.
New employees should take a survey within the first month of employment. If the company is doing the survey primarily for training, then that may be the first week. If the company is doing the survey for identifying discomfort and self-correction, then perhaps that happens at week 3 or 4 when the employee has had more time to be acclimated to their workstation setup.
An employee should take a survey when they have reported discomfort or concerns about their setup.
An employee should take a survey when they have requested a change in equipment and setup.
An employee should take a survey before an ergonomic evaluation if one has not already been done.
An employee should take a survey three to four weeks after they have had an ergonomic evaluation to see if they have made improvements and potential problems have been resolved.
Survey frequency may be increased in an area if the data trends see a spike in injury, discomfort or risk. This is helpful to closely monitor resolution action plans – is our plan successful in reversing trends?

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