An office workplace can produce just as many workplace injuries as a factory, warehouse or construction site if an effective ergonomic program is not in place. Many of today’s office workers are in a sitting position for most of the day, which can cause back, shoulder, and neck injuries. Carpal tunnel syndrome is a familiar injury among office workers. In fact, musculoskeletal disorders (MSD) accounted for nearly 30% of illnesses and injuries that required time away from work in 2011.
The result of an ineffective ergonomic program is an increase in absenteeism, employees working with pain, prolonged absences, medical expenses, increases to health insurance premiums, the cost of replacement workers, and reduced productivity.
- Among injuries, 2.1 million (75.2 percent) occurred in service-providing industries, which employed 82.5 percent of the private industry workforce. (Source BLS 2011)
- The average number of days away from work for General Office Clerks due to work-related musculoskeletal disorders (WMSDs) is 16.75 days per incident. (Source BLS, 2011).
- The 2011 incidence rate for WMSD cases with days absent from work increased 4 percent. (Source BLS, 2011).
- One lost-time, ergonomic-related injury can cost $30,000 or more including medical bills and lost time from work. (National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, July 2012).
5 Steps to an Office Ergonomic Solution
1. Encourage Employee Participation
As with most business solutions, teamwork results in success. And it’s the same with successful office ergonomic solutions. A client recently initiated a zero-injury program to eliminate ergonomic injuries in their workplace. At the outset, they had four volunteers from a 260-person workforce to help launch the initiative. After achieving 18 months of being injury free, they had 55 volunteers for the safety committee – more than 20% of the workforce! They are now approaching 2 years of having no reportable injuries through proactive ergonomic solutions. You can learn more about the successes from ergonomic programs by viewing InjuryFree’s article, Participatory Ergonomic Saves Company a Cool Quarter Million.
2. Conduct One-on-One Ergonomic Assessments
The employee who spends most of their day at their workstation has the most expertise to working within that environment. One-to-one ergonomic assessments by a trained safety committee member can resolve many issues.
3. Identify Universal Office Ergonomic Solutions
Tracking results and implementing successful solutions throughout the organization will speed up the process of reducing office ergonomic injuries. Advances in ergonomic assessments have produced several predefined solutions that can be adapted company-wide.
Ergonomic training workshops and seminars create awareness among employees and management. Training can be as fundamental as taking breaks, stretching, resting the eyes, or taking a short walk to release muscle tension or more advanced where workers are trained to identify risk factors throughout the office.
5. Professional Risk Assessment
Onsite ergonomic assessments are another option depending on your resources or if you need third-party documentation to meet government regulations. Technology has also allowed for online ergonomic assessments that are both ergonomically- and cost-effective.
Today’s office is a complex and dynamic collection of elements. It is constantly evolving in response to emerging technology and employee and customer needs. Office ergonomics is also a complex and dynamic collection of elements that must be adapted to the constantly evolving workplace in order to identify risk and reduce injuries.