Saturday, November 22, 2008

How ergonomics improves the bottom line

Cost effectiveness of ergonomics in the workplace ...

"Most ergonomic investments in organizations are initiated out of necessity.

For instance, when an employee begins to experience physical symptoms that are directly attributable to the work environment and a workers’ compensation claim is filed, it is then up to the company to immediately address the issue and provide a suitable course of action. This is commonly referred to as an ergonomic intervention.

While such interventions primarily occurred in manufacturing, with the proliferation of computers, the trend has changed dramatically. In fact, in a study of computer users reported in the American Journal of Industrial Medicine, over half of employees who use computers for at least 15 hours per week reported musculoskeletal disorder issues in the first year of a new job.

Of course, not all of these individuals file claims – it is merely an indicator of the potential problem. And as claims are filed, an organization’s workers’ compensation premium increases immediately upon renewal. It then takes a three-year history of reductions in claims for the rate to drop. One costly incident within the organization can precipitate this. This is known as the company’s workers’ compensation experience modification factor, or mod rate.

While implementing an ergonomics program is not a guarantee that no injuries will occur, proper communication and training of the company’s workforce will significantly mitigate the risk.

Many of the companies we work with adopted an ergonomics program after they saw their mod rate rise – in many cases, by more than double, and in some instances they were faced with being dropped by their carriers. Overall reductions of 50 percent were commonplace.

In one client research study, it was determined that for every dollar invested in an ergonomics program, $4 in cost savings were achieved.

Once mod rates dropped and rates were reduced, these organizations realized the benefits these initiatives brought to their bottom line in reduced costs, coupled with the improvement of worker well-being and productivity. Many of these companies began implementing proactive ergonomics initiatives.

Making it happen

The most successful results have been achieved when:

• Top management embraces the program, and it becomes part of the corporate culture.

• Goals for the program are established and results are measured.

• A “champion” is assigned to carry out the initiative, since the most critical components are education, training and leadership. If the organization is large enough, committees are established to facilitate the execution of the initiatives.

Some of the initiatives undertaken by successful companies include:

• Conducting workplace assessments within the first couple of weeks of a new hire, including ensuring that the employee is properly aligned in his or her chair and is instructed on how to properly use it and making an assessment of the workspace to ensure that all of tools are properly positioned and laid out for maximum comfort and efficiency.

• Establishing a corporate-wide stretching and exercise program that requires participation of all employees."    (Continued via New Hampshire Business Review, Mike Kind)    [Ergonomics Resources]

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