Engineering Controls and Industrial Applications for Ergonomics

Procedure for the Introduction of Engineering Controls in Industry

The effective management and elaboration of the design or re-design of an ergonomic workplace and the adoption of preventive organizational and procedural solutions are related to the company’s ability to define a proper procedure for the management of the whole preventive strategy. The technical regulations on ergonomics support the procedure for the definition of preventive strategies for the reduction of the ergonomic risk. Such regulations address company towards the realization of the best working conditions, chasing two primary objectives: the realization of an efficient workplace in terms of product quality and productivity, and the protection of workers’ safety and health.

This research introduces a procedure for the effective introduction of control measures for ergonomics. Based on the PDCA (plan-do-check-act) management method by Deming, the following procedure begins with an initial risk assessment and includes the steps in the following Figure.

Risk assessment is not only the evaluation of a risk index. The ISO/TR 12295:2014 defines an assessment procedure including several key questions and a quick assessment for the ergonomic analysis of the job conditions. Such analysis allows the effective identification of the primary preventive measures for disergonomics and for the most evident risk factors.

In particular, the following positions are involved in the procedure for the management of the control application:

  • employer and management: person/people with decisional power, in charge of the employment relationship with the worker. The employer (or the management) is responsible for the company where the worker performs the job activity;
  • safety coordinator: the coordinator of the preventive and protective services. The employer nominees the safety coordinator, assessing his abilities and the specific professional requirements;
  • first-line supervisor: the supervisor of the job activity. The first-line supervisor guarantees the application of the received guidelines, checking the proper execution;
  • workers: people performing the job activity, with or without compensation, within the organization of the public or private employer. In particular, the employee representative is an employee elected or named to represent workers for occupational health and safety issues.

Such definitions are from the Italian regulation in force on occupational health and safety (Ministero del Lavoro e delle Politiche Sociali 2008). The personnel involved directly participate in the process, providing useful suggestions and opinions in every step of the procedure.

The following steps define the proposed procedure for the management of the control application.

1. Problem Identification

The problem is the ergonomic criticality that requires the adoption of control measures. The company performs the initial risk assessment identifying the problem, the causes and determining the level of risk: “The risk assessment through the method/index _____________ enables the identification of the disergonomic situation and the control measures for the risk elimination/reduction. The method used to identify the problem is suitable for the investigated activities, work-related injuries, illnesses and musculoskeletal disorders due to biomechanical overload.

Personnel involved: employer and management, safety coordinator, first-line supervisor and workers.

 2. Nominee of the Technical Committee

The Technical Committee (TE) is a group of expert operators (internal or external) involved in the process: “The TE, lead by the employer, may include the following figures: production manager for production and organizational data, safety coordinator/external consultant for the application of the ergonomic principles in the workplace and the preventive measures proposal, the occupational medicine specialist for the synergy with the workers health data. The TE consults the workers and their representative, providing information for the proactive participation in the process.

Personnel involved: employer and management, safety coordinator.

3. Reunion of the TE

 3.1. Screening of the Alternatives and Choice of the Control

The group of expert operators screens the potential alternatives for the identified problem. The choice of the intervention is up to the employer, who defines priorities and schedule: “Based on the following considerations ___________ and objectives ___________ the TE proposes the adoption of the following preventive measure ___________. The following operators ___________ will use the proposed solution to perform the following activity ___________ and task ___________ for the operations ___________.” Alternatively, the TE provides specific control measures for each department: “The following preventive measures are adopted for carpentry workers ___________.,” or “The following preventive measures are adopted for assembly workers ___________.,” or “The following preventive measures are adopted for painting workers ___________.,” or “The following preventive measures are adopted for workstation/task ___________.,” etc.

 3.2. Plan of the Intervention

The planning phase sets the steps for the realization of the intervention, providing a predefined sequence of actions and time schedule.

 3.3. Definition of the Formation and Training Programs

The steps include all the necessary actions for the optimal adoption of the control measure, from the formation and training of users to the full application of the solution. “All the workers (or the following workers) ___________ who will make use of the selected control measure, will be involved in the formation program (n. ____ hour session) about ___________. The same workers will be involved in the training program on the ___________ (dd/mm/yyyy). The training session will provide all the instructions and the producer user’s guide for the proper use of the control.” New employees will follow a dedicated formation and training program according to the following methods ___________.”

Personnel involved: employer and management, safety coordinator and workers.

 4. Intervention and Adoption of the Solution

The solution is introduced as described in the initial plan, following the defined methods and schedule.

Personnel involved: safety coordinator, first-line supervisor and workers.

 5. Actuation of the Formation and Training Programs

The formation and training programs start after the purchase of the solution. The actuation procedure follows the plan and schedule defined in Step 4. The solution is activated once the formation and training programs are completed.

Personnel involved: safety coordinator, occupational health specialist, first-line supervisor and workers.

6. Check and Analysis of the Results

Define the assessment method to verify the effective adoption of the solution. The analysis is performed investigating the results form an ergonomics point of view and verifying the contribute to reduce or eliminate the risk of biomechanical overload.

Identify the steps to improve the results. After the conclusion of the intervention, monitor the system to supervise the proper operation. Ensure continuous improvement through the application of simple corrective actions to prevent possible undesired effects and optimizing the intervention. Such actions include the measurement of the obtained results compared with the initial objectives and the collection of suggestions and opinions from the users and the personnel involved.

 6.1. If the Check Is Ok, Then Perform a Task Analysis after 6/12 Months

The task analysis aims to measure and assess potential spontaneous adjustments performed by the operators: “The proper adoption of the solution, the correct utilization and the respect of the introduced control measure are constantly supervised. The following supervisors ___________ as ___________ (safety coordinator/ workers representative/etc.) will perform regular and periodic monitoring every ___________ weeks/months. Unwanted behaviors and improper actions will be punished, according to the following measures ___________.”

 6.1.1. Repeat Step 6.1 Until Check Is Not Ok

The task analysis is repeated every 6/12 months, unless supervisors detect irregular situations or problems related to the adoption of the control measure.

6.2. If the Check Is Not Ok, Go To Step 1

If the task analysis reveals the presence of an irregular situation, or a problem hindering the expected improvements, than TC should review the adopted solution and repeat the entire procedure.

Personnel involved: safety coordinator, first-line supervisor and workers.

See the following case studies for two applications of the proposed procedure in the meat-processing industry and in a retail company.


This work is available in Ergonomics: Challenges, applications and new perspectives, Nova Science Publishers, Hauppauge, NY (USA). ISBN: 978-1-53610-248-2. As follows, the complete reference to the publication:

Botti L., Mora C., Zecchi G. (2016) “Engineering controls and industrial applications for ergonomics”, in Ergonomics: Challenges, applications and new perspectives, pp. 49-110. Nova Science Publishers, Hauppauge, NY (USA). ISBN: 978-1-53610-248-2.

Up next, a printable version of the procedure will be available for the download from this website.