Have you heard of the term “commodity box”? This term refers to the situation when clients view your services as a commodity. If you're in the world of commodity-based pricing, then you’re at risk of clients price shopping for the lowest possible prices. You feel like there’s nowhere to move but to lower your prices. Unless you can illustrate to your potential client the real value they’ll get by investing in your offer, you’re stuck there.
In this post, we’re going to discuss whether ergonomics regulations and occupational health and safety law can give you an edge in offering your ergo services, or if it just makes your services a commodity. Let’s find out.
In 1992, OSHA started an ergonomics rule-making process and began drafting an ergonomics standard in 1995, which later on resulted in the issuance of an Ergonomics Program Standard in November 2000. The standard became effective in January of the following year. The new standard generally consisted of requirements for most non-construction employers to identify and eliminate musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs). However, in March 2001, President George W. Bush signed the Senate Joint Resolution 6, which repealed the new standard.
After that, in lieu of a standard, OSHA issued guidance to employers and relied on the general duty clause for enforcement. It’s very similar to many different countries, including Canada. Currently, Oregon, California, and New Hampshire are the only states that regulate workplace ergonomics to prevent injuries. South Africa is one such country that has an ergonomics regulation as well that was put in place a couple of years ago. Additionally, in Washington State, the Senate is looking to pass a bill that restores the state's ability to look at MSDs with the use of ergonomics.
If we're going into the world of regulations and standards related to ergonomics, there could be a lot more competition when it comes to offering ergonomic services because ergonomics is now something that’s necessary for every organization. Every employer must have some sort of ergonomic intervention at their workplace, which may cause ergonomics to be just a check in the box instead of a value-based wellness program that some of us are representing our services.
Let me give you an example of this: bananas. When you go to a grocery store, you want to get the cheapest banana because to you, a banana is a banana no matter where you buy it from. You’re just comparing prices until you find out the difference between an organic banana and an ordinary banana. Once you understand the benefits of getting an organic banana, you’re willing to spend more on organic bananas because their value has now increased.
It’s the same with how we can position our offer to not be a commodity and show that value. It's clear that the role of ergonomics in providing value to workplaces will never go away. But how can we provide employers with as much value so that ergonomics is not seen as a commodity, and they see clearly that we’re offering major value? Well, the single biggest thing that Ergo Service Providers can recommend to an employer is an integrated ergonomics program that in the next session I'll describe in 7-pillars.
Here is the 7-pillar system that you can incorporate when communicating your services to employers:
Top management commitment is a vital component for the overall success of an ergonomics process. Without strong management support, it’ll be challenging to get the staff to follow safety policies, enforce policies, and develop that safety culture. If ergonomics is already considered in the company’s business decisions, then it’ll easily trickle down to the rest of the staff. This means that once the employees see that safety is important to the management team, they’ll also adopt and imitate that mindset. The management should define clear goals and objectives for the ergonomics process, convey them to their employees, assign tasks to employees and ensure clear communication with staff.
While it’s up to the management to take the lead, worker participation at every level is necessary to have a successful ergonomic intervention. It’s also important to provide employees with information about the ergonomic risks in their workspace, encourage them to give suggestions on how to limit exposure, and assess ergonomic interventions. Getting particular attention lately is a participatory ergonomics approach—this is something that I happen to be an expert in. In a participatory approach, workers are directly involved in workplace assessments and ergonomic risk identification, proactively expressing their concerns, and offering and implementing solutions to eliminate exposure to ergonomic risk factors.
The great thing with participatory ergonomics is that you’d go in as the expert and train a cross-functional group of employer and employee representatives, and then you’d provide ongoing support to that team. However, the majority of work is done by the workplace and not you, you’d just be there for support. That's what makes participatory ergonomics so attractive to employers because there are no expensive consultation prices that come along with your expertise.
Employees should understand the benefits of ergonomics and the ergonomics-related issues in the workplace. With ergonomics training, employees can help identify the various risks in the workplace and report early symptoms of musculoskeletal disorders. Some key benefits of providing ergonomics training include increased morale, high productivity, reduced workplace injury, and increased savings.
Identifying and assessing ergonomic problems in the workplace before they result in musculoskeletal disorders is an essential step in the ergonomic process. This means that worksite evaluations of each job and each operation is required to determine exposures that have caused musculoskeletal disorders, and risk factors should be prioritized.
One vital step in enhancing the working condition is encouraging employees to communicate any ergonomic concerns with management. Early reporting of any injuries sustained at the workplace and any symptoms of MSDs early can help reduce the progression of symptoms, the development of serious injuries, and subsequent time-loss claims.
Once potential risks in the workplace have been identified and examined, practical ergonomic solutions should be implemented to reduce work-related injuries. A number of potential interventions can be put in place to ensure that the risks are controlled. First, physical changes can be made to the work environment through engineering controls. Administrative controls are also helpful for repetitive and excessive exertion tasks. This can be done by encouraging employees to take breaks, requiring two people for heavy lifts, or job rotation. Lastly, personal protective equipment such as thermal gloves, rounding and padding around hard edges, and hard hats.
Maintaining a safe, ergonomic environment for workers is an ongoing process. After hazards are identified, ergonomic controls are applied, and employees are educated and trained, there’s still some work to be done. This is such a fantastic way to market your success with an employer because you can evaluate the effectiveness of an ergonomic process and procedure to ensure continuous improvement and long-term success. Assessments should include whether or not the priorities have been met. Annual reviews are really valuable here so you can monitor trends before they escalate to really juicy problems.
I want you to really think about how you’re communicating the value of your services to your prospects, leads, and clients. Often, this means that you want to paint a picture for your customers of what’s at stake if they ignore ergonomics and how you're going to solve the problems. This way, your prospects, and customers will look for who can solve their problem the best and offer the best value to them instead of just price shopping to the lowest bidder. The reason why it's so useful is that it takes away the comparison between your business and other people who are offering ergonomic services in your area (that banana comparison) and helps you get out of that commodity box.
If you’re interested in taking the next step in your ergonomics career, then I want to encourage you to sign up for the Accelerate program. Accelerate shows you how to use modern marketing techniques and other systems and processes that’ll turn prospects into leads and help you run a thriving ergonomics business. Register today!
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