According to U.S. Bureau of Labor statistics, there were nearly 3 million workplace-related injuries and illnesses reported during the year 2012, resulting in an incidence rate of 3.4 cases per 100 equivalent full-time workers.
So what can companies do to help reduce workplace injuries and provide employees with a safe, productive work environment? Workplace ergonomics is one answer. Here are 3 key ways ergonomics can lead to healthy working conditions and reduce repetitive strain injuries, occupational diseases, and accidents, all of which can impact an employee’s ability to work and result in higher costs for the employer:
- Remove barriers to work productivity: The first step in addressing ergonomic concerns in the workplace is to review tasks in an operation to see which may pose certain risks. Excessive repetition of movements can, for example, irritate tendons and increase pressure on the nerves while quick motions (i.e., bending and twisting) may increase the amount of force exerted on the body. Predicting what might go wrong and modifying the work environment accordingly can help to make everyday tasks safer for employees.
- Design the job to fit the worker: Ergonomics involves designing a job to fit the worker, as opposed to the other way around. Rather than physically forcing an employee’s body to fit the tasks required for a particular job, adapting tasks, work stations, tools, and equipment to fit the worker can greatly reduce physical stress to the employee’s body as well as eliminate potentially serious workplace strains or injuries. Lista seating, for instance, is designed to provide maximum comfort and support to technicians and other professionals who spend a significant portion of their time seated at workstations and workbenches.
- Rearrange work station elements: After identifying the likely risk factors in an operation and considering an individual employee’s unique needs, the next step is to rearrange work station elements for maximum safety and productivity. Regardless of physical characteristics or the tasks performed, employees should be able to make adjustments to work surface height and chair seat height, or change the elevation of work shelves and work surfaces to increase worker comfort and productivity. Nonin Medical Inc. chose to install Lista’s Arlink 8000 Modular Work Station System as part of its lean manufacturing implementation; the work stations provided greater flexibility to adapt to ergonomic challenges resulting from employees of different sizes operating at the same workbenches.
In recent years, workplace ergonomics has been getting a lot of attention nationwide in response to a sharp increase in the number of repetitive strain injuries resulting in musculoskeletal disorders, such as carpal tunnel syndrome.