Ergonomics is a hot topic in many industries. Many leading companies, such as Tyson Foods and The Dow Chemical Company, are integrating ergonomics into all of their operations. So what are the benefits of having and using ergonomic processes? Studies show that ergonomics decreases employee risk for musculoskeletal disorders and lower costs for employers. Keep reading to find out how ergonomics reduces workplace injuries and how it can save companies hundreds of dollars in workers’ compensation costs.
The Dangers of Muskuloskeletal Disorders
Muskuloskeletal disorders (MSDs) are injuries or disorders of the muscles, tendons, joints, cartilage, and nerves. Work-related musculoskeletal disorders (WMSDs) can occur when a work environment and performance contribute to the condition or the condition worsens due to work conditions. MSDs can be caused by overexertion, repetitive motion, or events leading to bodily reactions like bending, twisting, or stretching. MSDs are linked to Repetitive Strain Injuries, which are when small repetitive tasks cause strain injuries. Some examples of MSDs include the following:
- Sprains and Strains
- Back Pain
- Carpal tunnel syndrome
MSDs are among the leading causes of missed work days due to injury. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, over 270,000 cases of injuries or illnesses involving MSDs occurred in 2018 in the private sector. Ergonomics can prevent the development of WMSDs. Ergonomics is very effective at decreasing one’s risk for developing MSDs.
What is Ergonomics?
Ergonomics is the science of designing and modifying the workplace to fit the worker while keeping the capabilities and limitations of the worker in mind. The word ergonomics comes from the Greek word “ergos”, which means work, and “nomos” meaning law. Polish scientist Wojciech Jatrezebowski introduced ergonomics in the seventeenth century. It did not become popularized until the manufacturing age of World War II. Since then, numerous studies have been conducted regarding the effectiveness of ergonomics in the workplace. Utilizing ergonomic principles in the workplace poses great benefits to both employees and employers.
The Benefits of Ergonomics to Employees and Employers
More Comfortable Working Conditions
Implementing ergonomic principles, like swapping standard equipment for more ergonomically minded equipment, can increase comfortability for employees. Some working environments force workers to use awkward postures to complete a task which puts stress on the workers; musculoskeletal system.
Decreased Risk for Work-Related MSDs
Ergonomics effectively decreases one’s risk for WMSDs because it eliminates or limits the amount of repetitive motion in a task and creates a more effective work environment. A task is considered highly repetitive if the cycle time is thirty seconds or less. An effective ergonomics process will remove or limit excessive or unnecessary movements, leading to decreased risk for repetitive strain injuries.
Employees are more likely to stay at a job where they feel that their safety and well-being are valued by management. Implementing ergonomic principles and showing employees that they are valued is a great way to reduce hiring costs.
Decreased Lost Work Days due to MSDs
Injuries caused by MSDs can have lasting effects on an employee’s health and ability. Days, weeks, and even months of valuable work time can be lost due to MSDs. This leads to a decrease in profit margins and excessive strain on other employees which can lead to more injuries. Since ergonomics is effective in reducing the risk for MSDs, there is less frequency of missed work days due to injury.
Decreased Workers’ Compensation Claims due to MSDs
According to OSHA, MSDs account for 33% of worker’s compensation costs in the United States. For an injury like a strain, the employer can be responsible for paying nearly $65,000 in direct and indirect costs. With fewer WMSDs because of ergonomics, employers will have a lower risk in terms of workers’ compensation claims.
How to Implement Ergonomic Principles in the Workplace
Start by assessing the needs and abilities of your workforce. Look at each individual task in an employee’s daily work and check for any repetitive motions, uncomfortable positions, or unnecessary actions. Reaching out to an occupational health professional, like Work Health Solutions, can help you to identify the safety needs of your workplace. Try asking your employees if they have any concerns about their work and see if they have ideas on how to improve the ergonomics of their workspace. After eliminating unnecessary actions and repetitions and implementing ergonomically-minded equipment, check in with your employees periodically to ensure the system is working.
Implementing ergonomic processes is important for reducing the risk of workplace injuries, but ensuring employee awareness is also extremely important for improving safety in the workplace. Have regular safety discussions in the workplace and ensure that employees understand and practice safety protocols.
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