Employers frequently struggle with maintaining a balance between adequately protecting employees and running a business efficiently. There are many ways that injured employees can cause problems for a company’s reputation and eventually their bottom line: inefficiency, elevated worker’s compensation payments, and lowered morale are just a few of the problems that can arise.
However, in some instances, increasing employee safety can be prohibitively expensive and–depending on the industry and safety matter in question–can damage a company’s ability to compete. Fortunately, establishing a culture of good ergonomics is a low
-cost way that employers can protect the health and well-being of their employees.
What Does “Ergonomics” Mean?
Ergonomics is a term used to refer to the practice of protecting workers by adjusting the tasks of any given job to fit the body of the person performing that job. For example, if a job requires an employee to spend a significant amount of time reading a computer screen, good ergonomic practices would include: adjusting the height of the monitor so the employee is neither looking up nor down at the screen, providing the right size keyboard to reduce the chances of carpal tunnel syndrome, or other repetitive motion injuries, and providing the employee with a workstation that can adjust to fit his or her body.
The practice of ensuring proper body mechanics is a relatively new one, gaining popularity towards the latter end of the 20th century. As doctors have learned more about the way our bodies work, the importance of engaging in solid ergonomic practices has become more evident.
Why Should an Employer Promote Good Ergonomics?
Aside from being the right thing to do, encouraging good ergonomic practices just makes sense from a financial standpoint as well. Employee injuries can be costly, especially when those injuries are long-term and reduce productivity, as the injuries resulting from poor ergonomics tend to do.
Engaging in good ergonomic practices is relatively cheap. Employers may need to utilize adjustable workstations or accessories such as ergonomic keyboards, or other similar equipment, but the cost of obtaining this equipment is both relatively low and a one-time expense. In contrast, dealing with lingering employee injuries can be expensive as well as requiring treatments for lengthy periods of time.
What can an employer do to encourage ergonomic practice at their workplace?
Train employees on Proper Ergonomics.
One of the most fundamental things an employer should do is ensure that employees are properly trained on the importance of good ergonomics. Many employees have no idea that, for example, typing for lengthy periods of time can place undue stress on their joints and connective tissues. A simple class, like those offered by Healthworks Ergonomics, can empower them to make adjustments to their workstations–adjustments which, while seeming to be relatively minor, can result in healthier and more productive employees. Bringing in an expert to help with this training can be an invaluable investment in the future of your company.
Evaluate the workplace.
In addition to training employees, employers should actively evaluate the workplace to identify and eliminate possible sources of musculoskeletal disorders (“MSD” for short). MSDs are the injuries–such as carpal tunnel syndrome, muscle strains, tendonitis, and so on–that can result when poor ergonomics are practiced. Fortunately, many sources of MSDs can be easily identified and corrected, and employers should closely monitor their employee workplaces in order to do so before employees are injured.
Encourage open communication.
MSDs may be easy to cope with at first, but they tend to worsen with time. Further, the longer the injury is untreated, the more expensive treatment will be. Employees should be encouraged to communicate with management in identifying poor ergonomic conditions as well as notifying the appropriate parties when an injury may have occurred. Keeping the door open to this type of communication will protect both employers and employees in the long run.
Good ergonomics not only protect employees but also reduce the long-term costs for the employer. Contact us for more information on what you can do to implement good ergonomics in your workplace.