What Are the Benefits of Ergonomic Products in the Workplace?September 28, 2022
When you consider the number of hours that the average employee spends at work each day, it should come as no surprise that poor posture, awkward lifting techniques, and forceful exertions can cause a range of injuries, from carpal tunnel syndrome and tendinitis to repetitive stress injuries and musculoskeletal disorders. These injuries can cause employees to miss days, weeks, or more of work and often require medical intervention, including physical therapy, prescription medications, and other treatment options. The expenses associated with these injuries can accumulate very quickly. When employers take proactive steps to identify the workplace hazards that increase the risk of musculoskeletal injuries, and incorporate effective ergonomic interventions, the work environment is much safer and more productive. If you suffered a musculoskeletal injury on the job, do not hesitate to contact a lawyer experienced in Workers’ Compensation.
What Are Musculoskeletal Disorders (MSDs)?
MSDs are injuries that affect the muscles, nerves, tendons, joints, cartilage, and spinal disks. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), MSDs are responsible for nearly 30 percent of all Workers’ Compensation costs, making them the largest category of workplace injuries. The most common examples of MSDs include the following:
- Carpal tunnel syndrome
- Muscle/tendon strain
- Ruptured/herniated disk
- Rotator cuff tendinitis
- Ligament strain
- Tension neck syndrome
What Are the Most Common Causes of Musculoskeletal Disorders?
Anytime you perform a task that is outside your body’s capabilities, you are at an increased risk for developing an MSD. If you can identify the common causes of these types of injuries, you may be able to take steps to avoid them. The following are examples of common ergonomic risk factors:
- High task repetition. Oftentimes, workers are required to do tasks that are repetitive in nature and to meet hourly or daily production goals. When workers are required to complete these tasks, and there are other risk factors such as high force or awkward postures involved, there is an increased risk of an MSD.
- Forceful exertions. If a worker is forced to complete tasks that involve significant and repeated exertions, the increased and sustained effort can lead to fatigue, which can increase the risk of an MSD.
- Repetitive or sustained awkward postures. When workers are not using the correct posture when carrying out a task, it can place excessive pressure on the joints, muscles, and tendons. There is an increased risk of MSDs when workers sustain awkward positions for an extended period, or repetitively.
Employees who are at an increased risk of MSDs include construction workers, warehouse workers, health care professionals, and first responders such as police officers and firefighters. Although these injuries are common, they are largely preventable if employers incorporate effective ergonomic devices and practices.
What Are Examples of Effective Ergonomic Interventions?
There are a wide range of ergonomic interventions that can be incorporated, the most effective of which will depend on the industry and the type of work that the worker is performing. The following are some of the most common examples of ergonomics interventions:
- Purchase adjustable desks for employees. Evidence suggests that sitting for long periods can increase the risk of certain MSDs, as well as other health risks. Adjustable desks allow employees to alternate from sitting to standing, which engages the leg and core muscles and keeps the blood flowing.
- Conduct an ergonomic audit. This will help determine whether existing interventions are working and where changes or improvements need to be made. An audit can focus on a specific type of injury, or on a wider topic.
- Provide ergonomic keyboards to all employees. Carpal tunnel syndrome is one of the most common examples of repetitive stress injuries (RSI). The use of ergonomic keyboards is a cost-effective way to significantly reduce the rate of RSIs and the pain and discomfort they cause.
- Consult with an ergonomist on a regular basis. A professional ergonomist has the skills and experience necessary to evaluate the current challenges that the work environment faces and suggest a range of ergonomic solutions that can be made. They can also train employees on how to use new ergonomic equipment correctly.
- Offer incentives to employees. It is also highly recommended that employers offer a range of incentives for good ergonomic habits. This can include anything from discounted gym memberships and yoga classes to monthly or quarterly office parties if the staff has met a certain level of compliance.
What Are the Main Benefits of Ergonomics in the Workplace?
Every employee is entitled to a safe and healthy work environment. Employers who take a proactive approach to ergonomics can reduce the risk of common workplace injuries. The following are additional benefits of having an effective ergonomic program in place:
- Reduce Workers’ Compensation costs. The costs associated with MSDs can accumulate very quickly, particularly if the injured worker is unable to work for a significant period and requires ongoing medical care. Employers who incorporate ergonomic devices and practices can prevent costly MSDs, as well as the indirect costs associated with these injuries, which can cost up to 20 times more than the cost of the actual injury. The following are examples of how ergonomics can save employers money:
– Close to 60 percent average reduction in MSDs
– Average of 65 percent reduction in incidence rate
– Seventy-five percent reduction in lost workdays
– Over 50 percent reduction in restricted days
– Close to 70 percent reduction in Workers’ Compensation costs
– Nearly 40 percent reduction in cost per claim
– Forty-three percent decrease in labor costs
- Improves productivity. Effective ergonomic programs and solutions that encourage good posture, less exertions, and fewer motions that require reaching create a more efficient workstation, which can result in a 25 percent increase in productivity.
- Improves quality of the work. Poor ergonomics can cause employees to become fatigued and frustrated, which can impact the quality of their work. By improving ergonomics in the workplace, employers can reduce errors by an average of 67 percent.
- Employees are more engaged. When employers make an effort to prioritize their workers’ health and safety, employees tend to become more involved and engaged in the work that they do. In addition, improved ergonomic practices can lead to a 48 percent reduction in employee turnover and a 58 percent reduction in employee absenteeism.
- Creates a culture that prioritizes safety. When the appropriate ergonomics are in place, it shows workers that the employer prioritizes safety. This creates a culture that fosters improved health and safety, which can lead to improved performances throughout the organization.
What Are the Most Important Elements of an Effective Ergonomic Program?
Incorporating ergonomics into the workplace is an important first step toward providing a safe work environment for employees. However, to ensure that ergonomic devices and practices are being used correctly and effectively, employers must ensure that the following elements are incorporated:
- Provide management support. For an ergonomic program to be successful, there must be strong commitment by management. The goals and objectives of the ergonomic process must be clearly defined, as well as the responsibilities that are designated to each staff member.
- Involve workers in the process. When workers are involved in every phase of the process, the program is more likely to be successful. Workers should be encouraged to identify and provide important feedback about specific hazards in their workplace and offer suggestions about how to reduce exposure to certain risk factors.
- Provide the necessary training. It is very important that employees are properly trained on how to use and implement ergonomic processes so that they understand how certain ergonomics should be used to prevent specific types of MSDs.
- Identify problems. This is an important step in the process, as it will ensure that ergonomic issues are identified and addressed before they cause any MSDs.
- Encourage employees to report MSD symptoms. By reporting symptoms early on, it will help prevent the symptoms from progressing, or developing into a more serious, chronic injury that can lead to Workers’ Compensation claims.
- Implement solutions for control hazards. There are a wide range of solutions that employers can implement that will help reduce, control, or eliminate MSDs that occur in the workplace.
- Evaluate progress. Finally, employers must assess the effectiveness of the ergonomic process periodically to ensure that it is successful and that it will continue to be successful on a long-term basis. If the goals of the process are not being met, employers must determine what changes and improvement can be made.
Baltimore Workers’ Compensation Lawyers at LeViness, Tolzman & Hamilton Represent Clients with Musculoskeletal Disorders
If you suffered a musculoskeletal injury while on the job, do not hesitate to contact the Baltimore Workers’ Compensation lawyers at LeViness, Tolzman & Hamilton. We will assist you with every step of the claims process, ensure that your legal rights are protected, and secure the financial benefits for which you are entitled. We will not stop fighting for you until you are completely satisfied. To schedule a free, confidential consultation, call us today at 844-556-4LAW (4529) or contact us online.
Located in Baltimore, we serve clients throughout Maryland.