Improving ergonomics in the workplace can seem like a hefty investment. Ergonomic furniture, tools, and aids can be expensive. But those investments can be well worth it in the long run. Effective workplace ergonomics helps create a healthier workplace, which can boost employee engagement—and in turn, boost the business’s bottom line.
Including absenteeism, work-related MSDs have a significant cost. MSD-related workers’ compensation expenses cost businesses between $15 billion and $20 billion each year, and account for 33% of worker illness and injury cases, according to OSHA statistics. The Institute of Medicine estimates the gross economic burden to companies resulting from workplace MSDs, in the form of compensation and loss of work, to be as high as $54 billion annually.
TEAMWORK: create an ergonomics team
It’s often best to recruit and train an ergonomic team from among your own ranks. Team members should be willing participants who have a stake in the team's mission, implementation, and success. When possible, the teams should consist of varied employee classifications as well: hourly vs. salaried, union vs. non-union and office vs. shop floor workers, etc. Workers from several departments should be represented, with a spectrum of employees on the team, everybody's criteria and contributions to group discussions are represented.
Benefits of ergonomics for the work site
Workplace ergonomics fosters a safety and health culture as a core value. People recognize the value of walking into a safe workplace; with the knowledge that their employer wants to keep their team healthy, employees are likely to be happier at work. Reducing ergonomic problems leads to fewer sick days, fewer injuries, and can reduce long-term, cumulative issues that can shorten a worker’s career.
One aim of ergonomics is to help reduce accidents and injuries. That’s why you see construction and factory workers wearing personal protective equipment (PPE) like hard hats, safety glasses, and back belts. Ergonomic tools for these workers are designed to reduce or prevent repetitive stress injuries, awkward gripping positions, excessive bending or stooping, exposure to excessive vibration, and more.
Ergonomic PPE protects workers from injuries and also helps make their jobs easier. For example, an ergonomic glove should fit perfectly, protect the hand, and enhance the wearer’s grip. When ergonomic equipment doesn’t fit right, it can be as dangerous as not using any protective equipment at all.
Instead of straight-backed office chairs and carpal tunnel-inducing office desks, an increasing number of workplaces are adding ergonomic office furniture to not only modernize their décor, but also to improve workplace ergonomics.
Computer Monitor Stands
When your computer monitor is positioned improperly, you can end up with neck and shoulder pain from craning your neck or turning your head to see the monitor while you’re working. Computer monitor stands can help you position your monitor directly in front of you, with the center of the screen at about eye height. You can also use computer monitor stands to raise the monitor to a height appropriate for standing desks.
By now, it’s probably fairly common knowledge that sitting all day while you work isn’t healthy. One way you can increase movement is by using a standing desk while you work. Standing desks have a surface that’s higher than an ordinary desk, because they’re designed to be used while you’re standing up, of course. Many standing desks have multiple height options that can work for people who are short or tall. Some adjustable height computer work stations even have electric motors that can adjust the height up and down so they work for anyone.
Standing Desk Conversions
For those who can’t buy an entire new desk, another option to create an adjustable height computer work station is a standing desk conversion. These consist of a platform that serves as a computer monitor stand and typically also hold the keyboard. They sit on top of an existing work surface and can be adjusted so the height is appropriate for sitting or standing.
Active seating refers to stools or chairs that let you move around while you’re sitting. This can include wobbly stools, balance balls, and a variety of other seating options that help you work your core muscles while you’re sitting. Active seating can help improve posture and boost your energy levels during the day by preventing slouching.
Workplace ergonomics is one of the most important employee perks: it fosters a safety and health culture as a core value. People recognize the value of walking into a safe workplace; with the knowledge that their employer wants to keep their team healthy, employees are likely to be happier at work. Reducing ergonomic problems leads to fewer sick days, fewer injuries, and can reduce long-term, cumulative issues that can shorten a worker’s career.