Ergonomic related injuries cost a lot. The good news is that most ergonomic related injuries are preventable, which is why the topic has been receiving so much attention over the past decade.
What exactly does the term ‘ergonomics’ mean?
The short answer is that it’s the science behind making sure that people work comfortably and avoid undue strain on their bodies. Reducing physical stress is the first step in avoiding work place injuries. That seems fairly obvious when you consider that if a task is causing you pain, it’s probably causing damage.
What makes ergonomics so important?
The first and most obvious reason is that it saves people from getting hurt and causing themselves long term side effects as a result of improper posture while performing their daily tasks.
How can you spot potential ergonomic injuries before they happen?
It’s in the employer’s and the employee’s best interest to prevent, rather than have to treat, ergonomic related injuries. It’s also a lot less expensive.
A good way to spot potential issues is to keep an eye on employees to see if there are warning signs. These signs can be things such as stopping work periodically to rub muscles, joints or bones; flexing fingers, wrists or ankles; wearing splints or braces to support limbs; complaining or showing signs of ongoing fatigue or rearranging work spaces to create a more comfortable, supportive environment.
These are all ‘tells’ that may indicate that an employee is suffering strain which could, if not dealt with, result in injury.
The most common targets for ergonomic injuries are the shoulders, wrists, neck, knees and elbows. Common injuries include pinched nerves, herniated disks, sprains, strains, hernias and carpel tunnel syndrome.
How can you help employees avoid injury?
The first line of defense is taking a look at the furniture. Providing ergonomically correct seating, keyboard supports, monitor arms and correct lighting are essential. Providing height adjustable work surfaces is also an excellent idea.
Furniture and equipment manufacturers are becoming increasingly focused on ergonomic design. This means that there are plenty of choices available to suit the entire gamut of employee sizes and requirements.
Paying a little more for a well-designed chair, work surface or accessory can pay off in the end by helping avoid significant injury costs.
Direct costs of ergonomic injuries:
OSHA has cited that musculoskeletal disorders or ergonomic injuries to have direct costs of between $15 to $20 billion per year, with total annual costs reaching $45 to $54 billion.
OSHA provided this list of actual direct costs for the most common ergonomic injuries:
– Carpal Tunnel Syndrome – $28,657
– Sprain – $28,338
– Strain – $32,319
– Hernia – $23,083
– Inflammation – $32,080
These types of injuries make up at least 34% of all workplace injuries according to a report done in 2012 by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
These are just the estimate direct costs and don’t factor in indirect costs such as lost productivity, sub standard work or other consequences of the injuries.
The median number of days an employee is absent from work due to ergonomic injuries is 12.
It’s not just the employer who pays the price for ergonomic related injuries.
Employees pay a heavy price as well. They often lose wages plus suffer pain. Their quality of life suffers and they have to undergo sometime lengthy and uncomfortable rehabilitation treatments.
It’s in the best interest of both employers and employees to take steps to avoid and prevent these costly, debilitating and easily preventable injuries.
If you’re interested in learning more about ergonomics in the office, or how to look for and choose supportive furniture and equipment, please email us. Our consultants will be able to advise you about setting up your office with well made, sustainable and ergonomically designed furniture and equipment.