"Workplace injuries continue to be a major concern for businesses, both large and small. According to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics, more than 4 million non-fatal injuries and illnesses occur each year.
These injuries account for approximately $20 billion in workers’ compensation costs per year.
In addition to the direct costs associated with workers’ compensation, there are also indirect costs (decreased productivity, lost work days, training new employees) that also affect the bottom line. A study in the Journal of the American Medical Association reported that musculoskeletal disorders (back pain, neck pain, headaches) are costing American companies an estimated $61.2 billion (direct and indirect costs) each year.
These figures are staggering and should be taken seriously by employers. Workers’ safety should be a top concern for all businesses no matter what the size of the company. Focusing on reducing injuries and providing a safe working environment will reduce costs and improve employee morale.
When designing a worker safety program, the first step to take is to consider the risk factors that lead to injury.
There are two types of risk factors involved: work-related and personal.
Work-related risk factors include poor posture at workstations, repetitive motions, lifting excessive loads and exposure to extreme temperatures. Personal risk factors include smoking, poor nutrition, physical inactivity, stress, obesity, lack of sleep/fatigue and muscular imbalances in the body. The more factors present, the more likely the worker will become injured.
The next step in designing a worker safety program is to try to reduce as many of these risk factors as possible.
Work-related risk factors can be addressed directly by the employer, whereas personal risk factors are tougher for the employer to address, but can be addressed creatively. For example, employers could offer wellness programs to their employees.
The wellness programs could consist of the employer paying a portion or all of a gym membership (to reduce inactivity and obesity), offering workshops on how to eat healthy and how to prepare healthy meals (improve nutrition and reduce obesity), offering smoking cessation programs (reduce smoking), providing health insurance that covers chiropractic care (reduce stress and muscular imbalances), and encouraging the employees to take mini-breaks throughout the day (to reduce stress and fatigue). A mini-break is a two to four minute break designed to give the employee a chance to relax his/her muscles and perform a few stretches. These mini-breaks should be taken once every hour." (Continued via The Times Trimes-Tribune.com) [Ergonomics Resources]