You most likely experience a situation at work where your employees can’t seem to get past that nagging back pain or that uncomfortable sensation in their wrists. Maybe they’ve even complained about headaches from eye strain or soreness in their feet.
Perhaps the job entails lifting or transferring heavy objects, kneeling down, bending over, or grasping heavy tools.
Or maybe your employees spend the majority of their time sitting at a desk and working on a computer.
Chances are, you have also dealt with similarly uncomfortable situations in your own workspace.
Regardless of the nuisance, it’s obvious that the work environment just isn’t quite working and if not properly addressed, can even lead to work-related injuries and disabilities.
This is where ergonomics in the workplace comes in.
Ergonomics is basically the way in which a workspace or a system is built or arranged to work with us, instead of against us. Ergonomics of a workspace can be anything from a worktable or workstation being the appropriate height so that a worker isn’t leaning down (causing back strain), to the proper size and use of tools to help that worker keep good posture or even refrain from eyestrain.
Without proper ergonomic systems, you and your employees are at risk of potentially major injury.
According to the CDC and the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, “Work-related musculoskeletal disorders (WMSDs) are the leading cause of disability for people in their working years.” In other words, WMSDs are caused by repeated work in a method that causes physical stress.
Despite the fact that work-related disabilities are decidedly not what you want for your employees or yourself, more is at stake when a properly planned work environment is lacking.
Below are three other reasons why proper ergonomics is important.
It’s simple: if a workstation is not properly built or planned to assist with the intended job, then the employee must work harder to do the job correctly. This, therefore, decreases productivity by making it more difficult and more time consuming for the employee to correctly do their job.
Efficient and comfortable workspaces will allow your employees to produce good work and, more importantly, will keep from potentially getting injured.
Ergonomic solutions that contribute to productivity can be anything from properly built work tables or benches (i.e. when built at an appropriate height, workers do not have to lean forward or bend over), to clean and easy-to-reach tool organization.
If there is an organized system for tool storage, not only does an employee not have to reach or bend (stressing the back, neck, and arms) to access their tools, but they can also more quickly and easily get the job done – and cleaned up!
When workplace ergonomics are not appropriately implemented, the risk factor of injury can and most likely will rise. Studies show that workers compensation costs can go down significantly over time when the best workplace ergonomic systems are applied.
Simply put, when a workspace or system is well-planned, the cost of work-related injuries is lower.
Every employer can agree that saving money in this area and not paying out to workers’ compensation is crucial to their profit and to the well-being of their staff (and for peace of mind!).
Equally important and not to be ignored is employee satisfaction in the workplace, which too can relate to ergonomics.
While a large-scale injury might be a very obvious (and terrifying) reason to implement better ergonomic systems, sometimes it’s the day-to-day, small-scale annoyances that can lower employer ratings.
If ergonomics systems in your workplace are not up to par, employees may experience small aches, bumps, and bruises, which over time can lead to dissatisfaction and may even create a complaining culture.
Keeping workers happy and healthy is essential to your business: happy employees means more dedicated, and therefore more experienced, employees. Staffing experienced employees who feel safe and taken care of in their work environment can not only build team trust but can also lead to smarter profit – jobs may be completed before their deadline, clients may receive exceptional attention from workers, and your business may even benefit from organic marketing via word of mouth from the employees.
Ergonomics Training and Follow Through
If you feel that your work environment is in need of an overhaul, you will want to make a plan for further training on implementing new, ergonomically-sound systems. This can include anything from spatial re-design or the purchase of new tools.
Training can also teach you about work-related disabilities and injuries and how to prevent them.
While the idea of training on ergonomics in the workplace may sound like just another cost to your business, it’s well worth the investment compared to costs that could be paid out in workers’ compensation due to potentially dangerous or harmful work environments.
To get the ball rolling, you will need to conduct an audit or assessment of your space or systems to see where improvements are needed. Assessments can even come in the form of employee surveys to get feedback straight from your team on what is needed for them to succeed and stay injury-free.
Following a training or an implementation of new ergonomic systems, it will be important to appoint someone in your business (a manager, shift manager, etc.) to be the point person for follow through. This person might:
- Continually train employees on proper tool/space use
- Follow up after new systems are in place to see that they are working
- Uncover other potential risk factors
- Make adjustments to new systems when needed
- Seek out new areas of the workplace that are not ergonomically sound
The Next Step
You should now be familiar with why a safe and well-planned workplace is important. It’s time to take the next step to make sure your space, systems, and tools are best designed for working with, not against, your employees to ensure a safe and injury-free environment. Contact us and we’ll help you create the best plan for making your work environment comfortable and safe!