If you own a business, there are many steps you can take to prevent workplace injuries from occurring. Not only do preventative measures help keep your bottom line low when it comes to Workers’ Compensation insurance premiums, but it also boosts employee morale. One thing many employers may not think much about is budgeting for ergonomic furniture and equipment. Ergonomic equipment helps to reduce the amount or repetitive motion-related injuries, such as carpal tunnel syndrome. It can also help reduce overexertion and bodily reaction injuries
When employees’ capabilities are mismatched with standard work in production processes, this can impact productivity metrics, resulting in even more waste and direct costs than injuries can. By paying attention to both the design and layout of your equipment, as well as the standard work practices of your employees, you can improve morale and lower your costs. Taking a thoughtful approach to utilizing ergonomics can help you ensure a high return on your investment.
Every year, Liberty Mutual Insurance Company publishes a Safety Index. In the most recent published results (for 2016-2017), the Index identified the top ten causes of the most disabling workplace injuries in the United States. These injuries cost American employers over $62 billion total. Experts suggest that the actual costs related to these injuries are actually much higher, perhaps up to three times as high.
When budgeting for ergonomics, one should consider the impact on production overall—not just health and safety and human resources cost metrics. For example, if you own a factor with a large assembly line, having a comfortable, ergonomically sound set up can increase employee production. No one works well when they are in pain and physically uncomfortable.
First, consider training your employees who are responsible for ergonomics. This should eventually be all of your employees, or at least most of them. However, when beginning, if needed, start with those who are directly and immediately responsible for process design, operations, and continuous improvement. Also, train all employees to ensure that they understand ergonomics, and to ensure that they are using best work practices. For example, if your employees spend a lot of time typing, you should train them about how to ergonomically place the keyboard, and how to sit to avoid repetitive motion injuries.
Next, budget funds to purchase tools and equipment to properly assess, measure, and improve your work processes. For example, you may want to consider hiring an independent consultant to assess where your ergonomic resources will be best allocated. You may want to have these experts work with some internal personnel who understand your work processes. They can work together as a team to develop and carry out an effective and sustainable ergonomics improvement process.
You should also develop means of tracking improvement, so you can gauge the return you are getting on your investment. Determine which of your employees will be responsible for tracking progress and work with them to come up with a plan.
The data collected by Liberty Mutual suggests that health and safety losses for ergonomics-related issues likely account for about a third of your total EHS losses. Determining how much you will invest in ergonomics should depend on your total EHS losses, and also productivity assessments.
MacMain Leinhauser provides advice and counsel to owners of small and mid-sized businesses. To discuss your business law matter, call 484-318-7106 or contact us online.