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How To Improve Ergonomics in the Workplace

According to Safe Work Australia, work related injuries cost the Australian economy $61.8 billion, representing 4.10% of GDP.

Direct costs include workers’ compensation payments, medical expenses, and legal service fees. There are also indirect costs including implementation of corrective measures, accident investigation, lost productivity, training replacement employees, and absenteeism.

Musculoskeletal Injuries

Musculoskeletal injuries are the most common type of reported workplace injury. Examples of musculoskeletal injuries include back strains/sprains, tendinitis, carpal tunnel syndrome, epicondylitis, rotator cuff injuries, and neck conditions. Between 2014- 2015, Safe Work Australia reported that musculoskeletal injuries accounted for 43.8% of the total cases for workers’ compensation claims.

Work-related musculoskeletal injuries happen when the physical requirements of the job don’t match the physical capabilities of the employee. A leading cause of musculoskeletal injuries is prolonged exposure to ergonomic risk factors such as repetitive activities, poor positioning, forceful motions, and extended time in static positions. These conditions and the associated cost can be prevented by using ergonomically correct equipment, redesigning workstations, and improving workflow.

Workers’ Compensation

Many workers’ compensation cases require long-term medical care, extended time off work, and hefty legal expenses. Long-term medical care can include rehabilitation services, adaptive equipment, and surgical interventions. Along with rising insurance premiums, these medical expenses have a substantial impact on the employer’s bottom line.

An injured employee may be ordered to take time off work until his condition is resolved and he is able to return to full duty without restrictions. During this time, employers must pay workers compensation payments. They may also need to train replacement employees to cover the job tasks left by the absent employee. Team productivity may be reduced causing lower revenue for the company.

Workers’ compensation cases may require legal expenses and accident investigation services. These costs can be significant due to exorbitant legal fees and prolonged duration where some cases take several months to a year to resolve. Employers may also be ordered to pay a large financial settlement for cases that result in chronic disability.

Implementing a Workplace Wellbeing and Wellness Program

Proper ergonomic standing desks decrease strain, but they also improve biomechanical efficiency and productivity.

Ergonomic standing desks can have the most significant impact on injury risk and employee productivity. The basic components of an office workstation are the chair and desk. There are thousands of ergonomic chairs on the market ranging from basic to highly specialized. Proper ergonomic seating will reduce or eliminate strain on the neck, back, and shoulders. It is most important for chairs to be supportive and adjustable. Check out our ergonomic chair guide to help you choose the right chair for your organisation.

Standing desks have become popular over the last few years. They are available in fixed, manually adjustable, and electrically adjustable forms. Adjustable standing desks allow employees to work in either sitting or standing positions. Manually adjusted desks typically use a crank to raise or lower the work surface. They are less expensive, but electrically adjustable desks are much easier to adjust especially for shorter employees.

Desktop converters or desk risers are an excellent alternative to replacing employees’ entire desks. These products are a more cost effective way to convert standard desks into standing desks. The converter sits on top of an existing desk to raise the height of the keyboard, mouse, and monitor. They come is a variety of configurations including dual monitor and those with a shelf to accommodate laptops.

Reducing Employer Costs

When developing workplace wellbeing and wellness programs, employers should consider including employee awareness training, implementing corrective policies, promoting good work habits, and installing appropriate ergonomic workstations. These factors should help to decrease the number of injuries each year. Fewer workers’ compensation cases results in lower medical expenses, reduced need for legal services, and less risk for paying large financial settlements. Implementing good ergonomic programs also leads to lower absentee rates, improved employee satisfaction, and no loss in productivity. Workplace wellbeing and wellness programs can reduce an employer’s direct and indirect workers’ compensation costs by 60-90 percent.

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