Human Factors

By Gentiana Cheung

Human factors also known as ergonomics is the study of how humans behave physically and psychologically in relation to services, products and environment (human factor, 2003, para.1).
According to the Ergonomics society, people commonly perceived ergonomics as product design, actually ergonomics comes into everything involves people. It has significant implications for efficiency, productivity, safety and health in work settings (ergonomics, 2004, para.2). Ergonomics is not just about chairs and desks, it could mean different things in different industry, it could refer to biomechanics, workplace ergonomics, human-computer interface, user interface design for hardware & software, and human factors.

Almost everything can be improved by ensuring process, place, product, or program is easy to use, intuitive, comfortable and safe. Human Factors/Ergonomics benefits organizations in the following ways (interface ergonomics, 2003, para.5):

1. workforce is highly engaged
2. products are more user-friendly
3. work quality increases
4. employees make fewer error
5. employee injuries minimized
6. organizational process and layout efficiency is optimized

Due to the fact that human factors/ergonomics is related to almost everything about human interaction, this paper will focus in exploring how to improve health and safety record in hotel industry by adopting ergonomic-based approach. In 1998, there are about six hundred thousand workers suffered from ergonomic injuries and resulted in taking time off at work. The cost of ergonomic injuries to employees and employers were estimate at $50 billion annually (Miller, 2001). There are many ergonomic standards around the world that focus on improving performance, efficiency and safety. The US Department of Labor, Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) estimates that there are approximately 300,000 workers exposed to the risk of painful, potentially disabling, injuries, and that organizations can save $9 billion each year by following OSHA's ergonomic program standards. According to OSHA, workplace fatalities have been cut in half and occupational injury and illness rates have declined 40 percent since its establishment in 1971. In 2001, occupational injury and illness rates dropped to the lowest level with 5.7 cases per 100 workers in eight years (OSHA statistics, 2004). There is also a research about ergonomic changes in workstations reducing musculoskeletal problems by 40 percent (Lang, 2002).

Hotel Housekeeping Employees

Hotel industry employees are exposed to all kinds of hazards everyday in various service, production and operational departments. Banquet or

dishwashing employees may have sprain or strain injuries due to repetitive pulling or lifting,

housekeeping employees may get hurt because of working long hours in bending, reaching or awkward positions. Kitchen employees may fall or slip if inappropriate floor matting is used or probably because of wearing inappropriate shoes. At present, OSHA does not have hotel-specific guidelines to help reducing and preventing workplace ergonomic injuries, but it does encourage employer to establish voluntarily a hotel ergonomic program which includes evaluating operations that causes injuries, implementing controls and training employees.

According to OSHA (Ergonomic: possible solutions 2003), many organizations have successfully implemented ergonomic programs in the workplace and the positive impacts are prominent. For instance, a food company in Pennsylvania recorded a 50% decrease in accident rate since its implementation of the ergonomic program. Other successful stories like a nursing home in Maine, has three times achieved its goal of 100 consecutive days without a lost-time injury. Although OSHA have not quoted any successful hotel story, it will be interesting to know how the ergonomic program works in the hotel industry.

One of the five-star hotels in Beverly Hills has incorporated an ergonomic program to its already well established Health and Safety policies in 2001. Although all hotel areas were regularly maintained to ensure workplace safety, the ergonomic program has helped to put more focus in ergonomic safety for employees. When the program was first introduced to the employees in the hotel, hotel management gave the Security Manager a revised title as "Security and Safety Manager" who had additional responsibilities in assessing potential risk areas, analyzing injuries statistics, establishing a set of ergonomic guidelines for hotel employees and providing ergonomic training to employees in all departments. Two notice boards in employee areas were designated to post OSHA information as well as health and safety information.

All employees were arranged to attend an ergonomic training which helped them to learn important knowledge and skills to perform their job safely. For instance, housekeeping employees learnt how to protect their backbones with proper bending, reaching or pulling positions. Restaurant servers learnt how to properly carry or transport heavy items.

Examples of incorrect and preferred posture.

Most employees were motivated to perform their daily duties by following the ergonomic principles, paying more attention to their working postures, watching out unsafe practices and pro-actively reporting environmental hazards to the management.

It has been three years since the first implementation of the ergonomic program and the monthly number of injury was kept to a minimum of one or two. Some of the injuries such as twisting, slipping and falling could be easily avoided. Most accidents happened when employees wanted to get their job done faster and awkward positions were usually taken instead of the ergonomically correct working positions.

There is still room for improvement in making the existing ergonomic program more effective. For example, an incentive program could be introduced to recognize or reward employees in maintaining a zero injury record for a certain period of time with full compliance of ergonomic principles.


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Interface Ergonomics.(Jun 26, 2003). Retrieved Feb 1, 2004 from

OSHA statistics. (Feb 4, 2004). Retrieved Feb 4, 2004 from

Lang, S., (2002). Ergonomic changes to workstations reduce workers' Musculoskeletal problems by 40 percent, academic-state study reveals. Retrieved Feb 4, 2004, from

Miller, G., & Waxman, H. (2001). Ergonomic Injuries in California, p3. Retrieved Feb 4, 2004, from

Author Note

Gentiana Cheung


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