Ergonomics in the Workplace

What is ergonomics? Searching online produces multiple definitions, many based on geography and discipline. However, the Oxford Language Dictionary defines ergonomics as the study of people’s efficiency in their working environment, also commonly referred to as “human factors.”

The study of human factors originated years ago—with some placing it in the early 1940s—and its importance in the workplace has continually gained prominence over the decades, so much so that it now occupies a significant role in leading safety programs. With that in mind, Pulp and Paper Safety Association (PPSA) member Matthew Kanneberg recently created and hosted an educational webinar series focused on how to build, align, maintain, and support successful ergonomics programs in the workplace.

Open to all PPSA members as well as other safety professionals in the pulp and paper industry, the first two webinars were held February 15 and March 15. The final webinar will take place Wednesday, April 12, at 2:00 p.m. (ET).


ergonomics in the workplace

The series kicked off with “Building a Targeted Ergonomic and Wellness Strategy,” where Kanneberg discussed the fundamentals of governing a company’s performance standard for ergonomics, as well as key elements for a site-specific, multi-year, continuous improvement strategy. He covered the importance of setting standards and how to educate and align mill resources to support an enterprise-wide effort to tackle ergonomics and soft tissue injuries/illnesses.

In the second webinar, “Effective Ergonomic and Wellness Teams,” Kanneberg shared the importance of aligning site resources and engaging site experts to support a focused team approach to ergonomic and wellness improvement. According to Kanneberg, “Many companies come to realize that the ergo/wellness teams can impact much more than the numbers… it’s a great way to improve culture, which then dominoes to teammate job satisfaction and retention.”

In the final webinar scheduled for April 12, “Aligning the Appropriate SMEs to Support an Ergonomic and Wellness Strategy,” Kanneberg discusses the different ways site leaders can engage help and support from internal and external SMEs.

“When it comes to one of our greatest challenges related to frequency and severity of workplace injuries, it’s critical to align with solid subject matter experts (SMEs) and resources that can help scale improvement at a much faster pace,” said Kanneberg. “The correct resources can target early intervention of leading indicators, catch potential injuries at the minor discomfort stage, and support faster rehabilitation of injuries.”

A longtime, active member of PPSA, Kanneberg, who has had a 30-plus year career within the pulp and paper industry, is director of medical, ergonomics, and home office health and safety for WestRock. In his early career, Kanneberg worked as an active emergency medical technician (EMT) and fire/rescue technician. He also served as disaster chairman for an American Red Cross chapter and as PPSA board chair from 2015-2016.

People attending the individual webinars live are entitled to apply for CEU credit. Cost for attending the third and final webinar on April 12 is US$45. The recorded series is also available to purchase for US$90 through PPSA. Please visit for more information.

PPSA also encourages safety professionals in the pulp and paper industry to mark their calendars for June 11-14 for their annual Safety and Health Conference, which will be held in Orlando, FL. Details can be found at or by contacting PPSA staff at [email protected].

PPSA is an international organization with members from around the globe. Its focus is on assisting in the prevention of accidents among employees of the forest products industry, both on and off the job. Please visit for more information.