Original Date: 06/05/2006
Revision Date: / /
Best Practice : Ergonomics
The Rockwell Collins Ergonomics Program has reduced direct and indirect costs associated with cumulative trauma disorders, increased productivity, improved quality, and produced a healthier workforce that proactively supports ergonomic principles.
Prior to 1993, Rockwell Collins did not have initiatives in place to address ergonomic issues. Workplace ergonomic risks simply were not identified. Cumulative trauma disorders (CTDs) had become commonplace and were the leading cause of injury across the enterprise. Workers were not made aware of ergonomic hazards and risks. Nearly every diagnosed case of CTD resulted in lost time, typically 6-8 weeks per case. The lost time for each case contributed to lost production and associated costs as well as an increase in workers’ compensation payouts.
To remedy the growing ergonomic injury rate, Rockwell Collins instituted an intensive research process of ergonomic hazards in the workforce and a vision statement that the company stated was “to foster the development of new ergonomic teams and programs, to provide support and recommendations for ergonomic advancement, and to further the standardization of world-class ergonomic practices throughout the enterprise.” The company wanted its vision recognized by leadership, employees, customers, industry, and safety and health regulatory agencies.
The first step Rockwell Collins took was to launch pilot programs at some of its smaller-scale sites, instituting such things as stretching, training programs, and job-site analysis. In 1997 a full-scale ergonomics program that included consultants was launched enterprisewide. An ergonomics council was created to achieve the goals set in the company’s vision statement. The council concentrated on enhancing employee safety, reducing workplace injuries, integrating ergonomic principles into daily functions and tasks, and developing an employee-based program. The Ergonomics Council developed and implemented an ergonomics plan.
The ergonomics plan at Rockwell Collins includes stretching techniques, subsidization and refurbishing hand tools, a strategic sourcing initiative for chairs and foot rests, interventions at work stations, and the development of ergonomic teams comprised of trained individuals who intervene on behalf of employees. The teams also perform audits on three levels. The first level is created for everyone at the company to do independently and consists of a series of questions employees answer about their workplace ergonomics. If employees’ responses raise questions about their ergonomic safety, the audit is elevated for further attention. The second-level audit is more sophisticated and requires administration by a team of employees well trained in ergonomic principles. The third-level audit is performed by an ergonomic consultant and is a more in-depth process that uses a multitude of tools to resolve issues.
Employees can also access ergonomic tips via the company intranet. Tips are also displayed on the television periodically throughout the day. Stretching exercises are encouraged three times a day and are prompted by playing music and voice instructions over the intercom system. Participation in the ergonomics program is at an all-time high throughout the enterprise. This is due to educating the workforce about ergonomic hazards and fostering a program that enables the workers to feel empowered about their health while on the job.
The benefit of establishing an ergonomics program at Rockwell Collins has been the reduction of direct costs for medical care and workers’ compensation payouts. The indirect costs of lost productivity, replacement wages, and training have been reduced as well. CTDs have been reduced, productivity has been increased, quality has improved, and the company now has a healthier workforce.
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