Monday, September 29, 2008

The economics of ergonomics

This is the first of a five-part series focusing on ergonomics in the work environment.

"Did you know that over half of employees who use computers for at least 15 hours per week reported musculoskeletal disorder (MSD) issues in the first year of a new job? This represents 50 percent of all lost work days and costs U.S. companies over $61 billion per year in lost productivity. Employers pay out approximately $20 billion annually in benefits for these issues.

MSDs — injuries to muscles, tendons, ligaments, joints, cartilage, nerves, blood vessels and intervetebral discs of the spine — vary in severity from annoyingly painful to crippling and disabling. MSDs, which especially affect the back, neck, shoulders, arms, elbows, wrists and fingers, are cumulative injuries that result from prolonged work exposure to one or more of five ergonomic risk factors:

• High rate of movement repetition

• High forces

• Poor, deviated work postures

• High contact stress

• High vibration of part of the body, especially in cold conditions

According to the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration, the average cost of a work-related MSD is $27,700, and in many cases they can be prevented by ergonomic intervention.

In the majority of instances, ergonomic intervention occurs after an incident is reported. However, a proactive ergonomics and wellness program not only will dramatically reduce the probability of a reported incident but will also contribute significantly to lowering a company’s workers’ compensation premiums – by as much as 70 percent in some instances.

Some firms resist adopting ergonomics and wellness initiatives due to their perceived “high cost.” The truth is that implementation of some initiatives can actually save money.

What is ergonomics?

Simply defined, ergonomics is the study of how your body interacts with your environment when you perform a task or activity. Ergonomics often involves arranging your environment — including equipment, tools, lighting and how you perform a task — to fit you and the activity you are doing. Office ergonomics focuses on arranging your work environment to fit your needs while you do your job. This includes your workstation arrangement — the placement of equipment such as your desk, computer monitor, chair, computer keyboard, mouse and telephone.

An ergonomic workplace evaluation examines:

• Your workstation setup relative to your posture, length of time in a position or doing a particular task, types of movements or repetition of movements.

• Your job surroundings, including the work surface, lighting, noise level, temperature and humidity.

• Your job tools, including any device used to perform your job duties, such as a computer mouse or scanning machines.

When your workstation is set up properly, you may be less likely to experience such problems as headaches or eye strain, neck back and shoulder pain. Applying ergonomic workstation principles also can help prevent such conditions as carpal tunnel syndrome and other injuries related to repetitive activities."    (Continued via NHBR, Mike Kind)    [Ergonomics Resources]

Posture at computer desk. - Ergonomics

Posture at computer desk.

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