How does ergonomic flooring benefit the employee and the employer in today’s work environment?
Responding is Robb McMahan, founder and CEO of GelPro and NewLife ergonomic mats, Let’s Gel Inc., Austin, TX.
Ergonomic flooring is a simple solution to help both employees and employers increase overall health, productivity and savings. These benefits can help reduce an employer’s exposure to health-related claims while increasing morale, energy and engagement within the company.
How do you feel when you stand in line for just a few minutes? Imagine if your job required you to stand all day on a hard, unforgiving surface. Keeping the body in an upright position requires considerable muscular effort. It effectively reduces blood supply to the loaded muscles. Insufficient blood flow accelerates the onset of fatigue and causes pain in the legs, back and neck. Standing for a prolonged period of time allows blood to pool in the legs and feet. Over time, this can cause inflammation, which can lead to degenerative conditions.
Excessive standing also causes the joints in the spine, hips, knees and feet to become temporarily immobilized or locked. This immobility can later lead to rheumatic diseases due to degenerative damage to the tendons and ligaments.
The estimated national annual price tag of occupational injuries and illnesses is $250 billion, according to a recently released study funded by NIOSH.
Bureau of Labor Statistics data shows that musculoskeletal disorders, commonly known as ergonomic injuries, accounted for 34 percent of all workplace injuries and illnesses requiring days away from work in 2012. Workers who sustained MSDs required a median of 12 days to recuperate before returning to work. Ideally, a worker would be provided with a workstation that would allow him or her to frequently change work patterns to include shared time between sitting, standing and walking.
A recent study at Texas A&M University compared different ergonomic mats and the materials they are derived from. While some mats scored higher than others, the study identified a significant decrease in height loss due to spinal compression during the course of a day by using an anti-fatigue mat. The study also showed an increase in reach flexibility of 33 to 300 percent when standing on a mat. Most injuries that happen at work are caused by physical stress and strain, such as sitting or standing in the same position for a long time or repetitive movements.
In summary, ergonomic support allows employees to work in comfort, therefore reducing the distress on their muscles and joints. In turn, this leads to increased productivity without the distraction of pain. If an employer implements ergonomic flooring, the employee will feel more valued and have greater job satisfaction. Healthier employees lead to fewer injuries and sick days, which lead to more productive and sustainable employees and businesses.
Editor's note: This article represents the independent views of the author and should not be construed as a National Safety Council endorsement.