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Ergonomics In The Workplace

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Workplace wellness is big news (and a big industry) these days. According to recent research, 60 percent of employers have implemented or are planning to implement a formal workplace wellness program, as a means of both increasing employee engagement, as well as reducing employee benefits costs for both the employees and the organization. While many of these programs are targeted at encouraging more physical activity and healthier eating habits, this narrow scope only addresses a few of the costly aspects of workplace wellness. Employers who want to take a more encompassing approach to health and wellness should consider incorporating workplace ergonomics into their wellness programs.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, ergonomics is the science of fitting workplace conditions and job demands to the capabilities of the employee population. Through the use of modifications and administrative controls, workplace ergonomic plans aim to reduce the number of injuries and disorders due to factors or conditions in an individual’s working environment. Ergonomics is most often associated with the prevention of work-related musculoskeletal disorders (WMSDs) or injuries that affect the muscles, nerves, tendons, joints, cartilage and spinal discs, like carpal tunnel syndrome, hernias and muscle strains, where the cause of the injury or disorder is overexertion or repetitive motions.

Ergonomics in action

An easy way to think of ergonomics is trying to fit the job and working conditions to the worker. This may include tweaking job designs and work environments to be less physically taxing on employees and allow for improved posture and fewer motions.

For example, a workstation with poor lighting will cause employees to unnecessarily strain their eyes in order to perform their jobs. Frequent or prolonged eyestrain can cause headaches, fatigue, dizziness and even nausea. Simply increasing the wattage of light bulbs or increasing the number of lighting fixtures in a room will decrease the amount of strain on the employees’ eyes and allow them to more comfortably and efficiently perform their job functions.

The costs of not providing an ergonomically friendly work environment

While workplace ergonomics may seem frivolous to some employers, the truth is ergonomic can help save businesses thousands of dollars each year. Don’t believe us?

According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics:

  • Work-related musculoskeletal disorders account for one-third of all lost workday injuries and illnesses in the US.
  • Employers pay an estimated $15-20 billion every year in workers’ compensation costs for lost workdays.
  • $1 out of every $3 employers spend on workers’ compensation costs is spent on WMSDs.
  • The indirect costs of WMSDs (lost productivity, absenteeism, employee turnover, etc.) can be up to 20x the cost of the actual injury.

Implementing a workplace ergonomics plan to address and prevent WMSDs

The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) outlines the following six steps for organizations considering implementing a workplace ergonomics plan:

  1. Look for signs of potential work-related musculoskeletal disorders (frequent worker reports of aches or pains associated from particular tasks, etc.).
  2. Decide on a plan of action to address possible problems. Consider involving employees and encouraging them to suggest solutions or modifications.
  3. Conduct ergonomics awareness training to inform employees about the risks of WMSDs and how to recognize and prevent them.
  4. Identify which jobs or what specific working conditions that are at the most risk of causing WMSDs by gathering and analyzing injury logs, job descriptions and any other data your organization may have.
  5. Implement appropriate modifications for tasks that may cause WMSDs and evaluate the results.
  6. Establish and promote health care management to emphasize the importance of early detection and treatment of WMSDs for preventing impairment and disability.
  7. Minimize risk factors for WMSDs when planning new work processes and operations by proactively identifying possible ergonomic modifications.

G&A Partners helps our clients prepare for all kinds of potential risk and safety concerns, including WMSDs, by developing sound HR policies and procedures. With an award-winning employee wellness program of its own, G&A Partners has the skills and expertise to help you create a culture that keeps your employees happy and healthy. Schedule your free business consultation today to learn how G&A’s team of safety experts can help you develop a safe, ergonomically friendly workplace.

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