Workplace Ergonomics and ISO Certification

April 19, 2019

A woman happily and comfortably stretching at her ergonomically sound work stati
Kip Soteres

ISO 6385, ISO 10075 and ISO 27500 certifications allow organizations to take a methodical approach toward meeting approved ergonomic standards. Awareness of the importance of ergonomics in the workplace has grown in recent decades as one solution to problems associated with repetitive and stress-related disorders.

Dangerous or even merely unhealthy work environments feed longer term challenges that are harmful to employees and costly to employers. The American Institute of Stress cites multiple studies showing that 40 percent of employees find their job very stressful, and 25 percent view their jobs as the main source of stress in their lives. This stress leads to more health problems, higher levels of absenteeism and employee fatigue, and disengagement directly tied to productivity.

Workplace Ergonomics Are Important to the Solution

Against this backdrop the importance of ergonomics in the workplace cannot be overstated. ISO certifications give organizations a path toward standardized and professionally vetted ergonomic solutions. ISO certifications vary greatly in scope and scale, and the organization does not provide guidelines for the amount of time to receive certification. Prior participants suggest starting with the assumption that it will take roughly a year.

ISO 6385, Ergonomic principles in the design of work systems, is a good starting place by establishing ergonomic basics to enhance the work environment. It covers many job types from physical, blue collar workers in industrial settings to hospital workers to office workers who spend most of their working day at a desk.

ISO 10075, Ergonomic principles related to mental workload, oriented toward reducing mental stress at work, whether those causes be physical, social or the psychological stresses of the job. It includes methodologies to assess and measure the stress associated with any given positions and allows for documentation in support of continuous improvement.

ISO 27500, The human-centered organization — Rationale and general principles, addresses ways to make an organization more human centered, focused on work-life balance and the values and beliefs most conducive to a healthy work environment.

In addition, the new ISO 45001, Occupational Health & Safety, standard builds upon and adds to many of the previous ISO ergonomic standards starting with the three primary drivers for musculoskeletal disorders: force, posture and frequency. It adds a whole-body assessment tool that is summarized in a risk priority score that can be used to prioritize solutions for areas where the risk is highest.

In all cases, ISO standards are drafted so that there are relevant sections addressed across all levels of the organizational hierarchy, from the board of directors and c-suite executives to middle-managers, front-line supervisors and individual contributors. Solutions advocate a collaborative and integrated approach that engages professional ergonomists together with others involved in the design of better ergonomic solutions.

Ergonomics for Everyone

All of these ISO standards related to making better use of ergonomics in the workplace. Ultimately they provide tools that help organizations better define jobs and work environments in ways that leverage ergonomics to maximize performance and minimize the mental and physical tolls of working.

In March 2018, ISO announced the first 10 organizations to achieve the ISO 45001 certification including CBRE, Colas Rail, EMCOR UK, Eurovia UK, Interserve, Morgan Sindall, OKI UK, OPG, Overbury and Ringway Jacobs, representing industries including real estate, transportation, facilities management, contracting and construction, property management and housing, printing, power generation and integrated project and service delivery.

Looking for ways to unify your workforce on an effort that will improve employee health and comfort, reduce sick days and OSHA-related costs while also increasing productivity and engagement? It may be time to evaluate ISO 6385 and other standards as appropriate to your business.

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