Companies lose billions of dollars every year, because their employees stay home with such ailments as headaches, backaches, eyestrain, sore feet and arm and wrist pain from repetitive motion. That is why ergonomics, or the science of designing the job, equipment, and workplace to fit the worker, is so important. In an ergonomically correct environment, employees are much more productive and positive about their work.
An ergonomics specialist designs and enhances the workstation, tools, equipment, and procedures to minimize fatigue discomfort and injuries, at the same time as effectively obtaining company goals. Ergonomics is also used to reduce errors, wasted motions, repairs, and materials damage. The National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health defines ergonomics as “the discipline that strives to develop and assemble information on people’s capacities and capabilities for use in designing jobs, products, workplaces and equipment.”
Ergonomics is founded on the science of the relationship of human physiology and pathology to work. Healthcare providers already have the understanding of and training in human physiology and the mechanisms of injury necessary to diminish the incidence and severity of workplace dangers. This knowledge and expertise can also be used to maximize work output of all workers, healthy and injured.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration reports that annual workplace injuries, illnesses and deaths cost organizations $170 billion per year. Payment for accidents include direct costs to the employees and healthcare professionals and indirect costs for reduced productivity and manufacturing quality, additional training, and greater legal and insurance fees and premiums. In 2001, injuries from excessive carrying, holding, lifting, pushing, and pulling led to nearly $10 billion in direct costs and repetitive motion injuries added up to over $2 billion in direct costs. The indirect costs from these ergonomic injuries accounted for $39 billion.
There is documented a connection between workplace safety and an organization’s output and profits. Insurance claims increase and profits decline when workplace injuries mount. Enhanced safety and ergonomics can decrease injuries and improve bottom line profits. Research indicates that a good health and safety program can save $4 to $6 for every $1 invested due to greatly lowered workers’ compensation and medical costs, reduced absenteeism, turnover, and training costs, and higher productivity and employee morale.
The ergonomic changes must address risk factors, such as repetition and awkward posture, associated with individual work tasks. Some of the guidelines for office work modifications are: Designing tools and equipment to encourage workers to maintain a proper body position; choosing tools and equipment to lower muscle exertion and direct tissue pressure; reducing repetitive arm motions, long reaches and twisting motions; building working surfaces at the correct height; allowing working surfaces to be tilt adjustable; adjusting furniture to lower body strain from awkward posture; incorporating task lighting without glare and shadows; and using wrist and/or arm supports.
Following proper ergonomics greatly helps improve employee safety and, as a result, lowers the number of days of sick leave. Quality is greatly enhanced by cutting down or eliminating the workers’ handling of components or materials during assembly or manufacture. Profitability is increased by boosting productivity.
For more information on proper ergonomics or to have an ergonomic evaluation contact +Heather K. Gansel, DC ofHead-To-Toe Chiropractic.