Archive for January, 2011
As a manager of environment, health and safety (EHS) programs, you’ve heard the adage, “What gets measured gets done,” a quote often attributed to Deming, Lord Kelvin and others. The adage and practice is true, but the right goals are not always set nor the right metrics measured. We’ve found this especially true with the management of occupational ergonomics.
Setting the right goal and metrics are essential for an effective, sustainable ergonomics process. The traditional goal is to “reduce ergonomic injuries” by measuring incidence rates of ergonomic/MSD (musculoskeletal disorder) injuries. I call this ‘traditional’ because it has been used by most safety managers and companies since the early 1980′s.
Unfortunately, both the goal and metric are lagging measures of consequences (injury). They do not allow organizations to take action to prevent the loss. Yogi Berra was right when he said, “If you don’t know where you are going, you will wind up somewhere else.”
In a recent benchmarking study of ergonomic program management we found that:
- 54% of participating companies still used injury incidence or lost workday case rate (of MSDs, sprains and strains) as their primary goal and measure for workplace ergonomics (a lagging measure of consequence).
- 15% had no specific measures for ergonomics. Instead they considered it part of the total injury/illness rate.
- 31% tracked the level of exposure to MSD risk factors (a leading measure of cause).
The benchmarking study also showed that organizations successful in managing occupational ergonomics set a common goal of reducing MSD risk factors to the lowest level possible. This aligns everyone toward “True North”, a common goal with a leading, proactive measure. The measure is dependent on being able to quantify the level of exposure to the risk factors that cause MSDs: awkward posture, high force and time (long duration or high frequency).
Quantitative tools for ergonomic risk factors provide measures at two levels: They identify the amount of exposure at an individual task or workstation, and they track the progress of improvement across an organization. Additionally, they eliminate the need for and use of subjective assessments, providing valid and objective determination of what is an ergonomic hazard, and what is not.
Use of these quantitative risk assessments provide a measure of MSD risk and allows these measures to be fed up through an organization. With this information you can track risk exposures at the workstation, department, value stream, plant and company-wide levels. This can be a lot of data and create an administrative nightmare just to collate and report the results.
Successful organizations use a common database to collect and report assessments, improvements, follow up assessments and report the measures plant wide and company-wide. On-line solutions provide a comprehensive database to manage the administrative task needed to document your ergonomics program.
So where does your organization stand with management of ergonomics? Are you focused on measuring cause or consequences? Do your goal and measures support a reactive or proactive approach? How confident are you in your current approach to achieve the results your executive leaders expect?
As the new president of NAEM, I look forward to 2011 with great enthusiasm and optimism. I’m truly honored to be entrusted by you to lead this organization for the next two years.
At the beginning of each new year, I like to try to predict events for the coming year by playing one of my favorite childhood games, Magic 8-Ball. Remember that game?
With the 8-Ball in hand, I asked my first question: Will the 112th Congress pass any major environmental legislation? Answer: “Ask again later.”
Hmm… Let’s try another: Will USEPA look to expand its authority to regulate greenhouse gas emissions under the Clean Air Act? Answer: “Better not tell you now.”
Okay, let’s try a different track. How about: Will I meet my goals as president of NAEM? Answer: “Most definitely.” More like it!
I’ve set three goals to be achieved during my presidency. These include:
- Next generation leadership: As the largest professional community for corporate EHS and sustainability decision-makers, NAEM has over 1,500 members with about 75 corporate sponsors. The continued success of the association is dependent on strong leadership. We have an obligation as leaders within our companies and as members of the NAEM Board to identify high potential candidates and provide them with development opportunities to position them as future leaders. This goal will focus on development of a program to actively cultivate the next generation of professionals to be future leaders of NAEM and within our own companies.
- Enhancement of our innovative programming through tailored educational learning events: NAEM is fortunate to have a large and diverse membership base. But diversity brings a responsibility to provide relevant programming that speaks to the issues and provide solutions. It also brings the opportunity to create segmented programming based on industry sectors and interest level. This goal will explore the relevancy of tailored or segmented programming, programming readily packaged for chapter use and programming produced for podcast use.
- Building a strong community and membership engagement: One of the strengths of NAEM is its strong community of professionals that provides an unparalleled peer-to-peer network. As we continue to grow, we are remain focused on maintaining a strong sense of community even when we are not together. Our new website provides a social networking platform that is part of the solution. However, we need to look for ways to engage all members of our community to create an all inclusive and well-rounded sense of community. I’m referring to engagement that creates an inclusive and well-rounded sense of belonging.. This goal will focus on strengthening our virtual community and creating a sense of connectedness through active membership engagement.
Over the next few months I will be working to create a plan to deliver on these goals over the next two years. In the meantime, I welcome your comments and thoughts for initiatives to help make these goals a reality. I truly wish you the best in the new year.
Hear Pat discuss her agenda for the new term here:
Through my work with environmentally-focused graduate students at the The Stuart School of Business at IIT, I’ve noticed the emergence of a different kind of MBA candidate. Today’s students share a mindset that values creative thinking, purposeful living and championing causes using a professional approach.
Jane recently completed her law degree and passed the bar in July, but is more enamored with the degree she is pursuing in Environmental Management and Sustainability. She plans to start a consulting company that supports the greening of buildings or start a renewable energy company that converts waste to alternative heat sources.
Doug has been an equity trader for almost 20 years, and now he wants to use his agricultural agronomics background and his new studies of sustainable enterprise into shaping and forming environmental policy.
Are these students unique individuals or have the values of sustainability taken root beneath the cultural soil?
I’d love to hear from you. For those of you who are responsible for hiring new talent for your EHS and sustainability programs, what are some of the characteristics of today’s young professionals? Are values playing a bigger role in who enters the field today?
Guest blogger Luigi Pecoraro is the Director of the Career Management Center for IIT’s Stuart School of Business. As principal of Professional Development Programs, he consults on Human Resource and Business Development Issues and is leading the effort to translate the school’s mission into greater opportunities for its students.
A recent USA Today headline caught my attention…. “2010 The Year We Stopped Talking.” Texting and emailing are now our preferred way of communicating. While being breathlessly, deliriously busy has been equated with commitment and value generation, I sense people are starting to push back against this pressure to be “always on.”
One of the ways people are planning to “take their life back” is by re-evaluating their use and dependence on e-messaging tools. How do these devices affect our workplaces and how well we serve as leaders?
Please allow me to fuel some conversation by sharing some observations:
- As humans we need and thrive on our connections with others. Relationships are built through contact…the spoken word, the tone and the expression are vital. Electronic media can help maintain meaningful relationships but they can’t create them. In the extreme, e-messaging can be a cowardly way of sharing information.
- To be effective leaders we must focus on these people under our sphere of influence. Being all things to all people is a foolish pursuit. We must be available to those we have a responsibility to shepherd.
- Too much information of little or no value is passed around. Break the cycle. Lead the way by cutting your e-messages by at least 50 percent and help others do the same.
- Multi-tasking doesn’t work. Dedicate a portion of the day to exclusively reading and answering e-messages. It’s rude and insulting to have one eye ball on a colleague and the other on your Blackberry.
What do you think about our use of e-messaging tools: Have we mastered these devices or have they mastered us? What are your watch-outs with communication technologies? Please share ways that you have found to harness the power of electronic tools. We can learn from you. Thanks!