Entry By Jason Brick
Ergonomics can feel like a capitalist's version of feng shui. Some "expert" offers to come in -- for a surprisingly significant amount of money -- and rearrange the furniture in a way that makes your business work better.
If you run a major plant or similar operation, it can be worth hiring a pro to organize your workflow. For the rest of us small business owners, simply avoiding the most common and costly mistakes is enough.
- Storing "Grouped" Items Separately
If you have a task that requires both a widget and gizmo, always store the widgets and gizmos as close to each other as possible. Otherwise, that task takes extra time with every repetition.
- Cramped Work Spaces
Working in a cramped, or otherwise restricted or uncomfortable, work space slows the work process and costs you money. It also makes repetitive stress injuries and similar maladies more common.
- Cheap (or Inappropriate) Tools
If somebody has to drive screws every day, spring for a power driver instead of a hand tool. This saves time every day and cuts down on workplace injuries.
- Bad Floors
Rough floors can trip. Too-smooth floors can cause slips. Folks on their feet all day should have an ergonomic mat to ease the stress on joints. Fixing this can be one of the cheapest ways to boost office ergonomics.
- Dim Lighting
This one is obvious, considering how often it's ignored. Keep work areas bright enough to work in, and change light bulbs whenever they start to dim.
- Poor Work Space Arrangement
Any given work station has a flow to it. If that flow is set up for maximum efficiency, it works well. If it's set up poorly, it costs money.
- Bad Lines of Sight
The worst line-of-sight situations require you to hire extra people to keep an eye on the door, or on line workers. Make it easy for people -- including supervisors -- to see everything they need to see.
- Ignoring Hazards
Most small business owners have done this once or twice -- putting off a repair that makes an area more hazardous than it should be. Don't do it, and if you are -- stop.
- Bad Storage Arrangement
In your storage areas, put heavy and large objects on the lower shelves. Light, small objects go higher up. Any other arrangement takes more time and risks more frequent injuries.
- No (or Inconvenient) Ladders
Some jobs just need a ladder or step stool. If you don't have one -- or if it's all the way across the facility -- your employees will try to make due with a rickety pile of boxes, or one of your wheeled chairs.
- Cheap Chairs
If your employees will be sitting in chairs all day, make sure they're nice chairs. Back injuries and tendonitis are just two of the risks associated with cheap sitting space.
- Not Writing It All Down
Your processes and policies are there to help people work safely and efficiently. If you don't write them down, it's hard to train new employees on how to do things the right way. It's even harder to discipline employees who don't want to comply.