Workplace Solutions Ergonomics

Know the benefits of an ergonomics program

What are the top benefits of an ergonomics program?

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Responding is Bryan Hornik, partner, Evolved Safety, Grand Rapids, MI.

Injuries resulting from musculoskeletal disorders, such as muscle strains, sprains and repetitive motion disorders, can be an ongoing pain for both you and your workers. And although OSHA has no specific standard for ergonomics, you still can be cited for ergonomics-related issues under the General Duty Clause. The benefits of an ergonomics program are far-reaching and can make a difference for everyone in your organization, including office personnel, drivers, construction workers and manufacturing employees.

Here are some things an ergonomics program can do:

Reduce workers’ compensation and health insurance costs: Ergonomics-related injuries tend to be long-term, creating an ongoing drain on workers’ compensation and medical costs. The list of statistics supporting the cost-savings that result from a reduction of MSD injuries is almost as long as the time it takes for a back injury to heal. From the average cost of a single, chronic low-back disorder – $100,000 – to the $13.4 billion employers pay annually in costs related to overexertion injuries due to lifting, pushing, pulling, holding, carrying or throwing an object, enough data is out there to support investing in an ergonomics program from an economic standpoint.1

Improve your DART rate: An ergonomics program helps to keep your workers healthy and on the job. MSDs accounted for 32 percent of all injury and illness cases in 2014 that required days away from work, and workers who sustained an MSD required a median of 13 days to recuperate before returning to work.2 Workers who are able to go back to the job may require reduced time or a job transfer to a position that puts less strain on their injury. Lost time and job transfers result in lost productivity and efficiency, increased costs, and decreased employee morale – not to mention the time you have to spend training and retraining workers to job-shift.

Less turnover and increased employee satisfaction: An ergonomics program in any work environment helps improve employee morale and productivity. No matter your work setting, whether it’s an office or manufacturing site, employees who are less fatigued and are able to work without discomfort are more productive, more alert and happier overall.

Happy employees tend to be more loyal to their companies. A recent study by economists at the University of Warwick found that happiness led to a 12 percent spike in productivity, while unhappy workers proved 10 percent less productive.3

Help prevent other incidents and injuries: Workers who experience discomfort on the job may find shortcuts or workarounds that could result in incidents and injuries such as slips, falls and lacerations. Implementing an ergonomics program and encouraging workers to report ergonomic issues early helps prevent MSDs as well as other common workplace incidents.

Work-related MSDs and ergonomic-related injuries can be prevented with proper awareness through training, engineering controls and fitting the job to the person. A thorough ergonomics program is a sound investment in your workers and the financial well-being of your organization, and can save you time and headaches … especially those caused by an improper desk chair.

References:
1. Work-Related Musculoskeletal Disorders (WMSD) Prevention, The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 
2. Nonfatal Occupational Injuries and Illnesses Requiring Days Away From Work, 2014, Bureau of Labor Statistics. 
3. Revesencio, Jonha. Why Happy Employees Are 12% More Productive, Fast Company Magazine. 

Editor's note: This article represents the independent views of the author and should not be construed as a National Safety Council endorsement.

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