More and more employees are working from home and don’t have office equipment to do their job. A large percentage of employees are working from their dining room tables and sitting in chairs without lumbar support.
These same employees may be straining their neck after hours of using their personal laptop as their work computer.
Proper ergonomics is key to preventing injuries and maintaining good posture in the workplace, and one of the best ways to do this is by doing a remote ergonomic assessment by a professional.
In this article, I will discuss how businesses can become more profitable by investing in their employees first.
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Prevention reduces work related injuries
The job of an office worker may seem low risk, but injuries happen all the time. Something as simple as adding a footstool, adjusting a chair, or changing room lighting can have a significant effect on how person performs their job.
I recently evaluated an employee sitting at their workstation typing and noticed that their key strokes were much louder than normal. When I starting using the keyboard, I noticed that the keys were firm and required a higher than normal force to input keys.
This keyboard had probably been used for at least a decade, and no one had ever complained or requested a new keyboard. This happens all the time, and a simple fix could prevent carpal tunnel, tendonitis, or some other muscular skeletal disorder.
Here’s another example. An employee sits at a desk with a window behind them. They lean forward throughout the day to compensate from screen glare. This awkward posture for hours each day results in pain, difficulty sitting in a chair, and a workers compensation claim.
Injuries at work happen all the time, and many of them are preventable with a simple ergonomic assessment.
Smaller claims have higher indirect costs
Did you know that smaller claims are usually more expensive than larger claims? A simple carpal tunnel surgery may cost a company $1500-$1800, but external costs may be paid for the next 3-4 years.
Most of these small “claims” can result in months of therapy, paid time off, and new hire costs. Not to mention, the cost of finding employees to cover shifts, reduction in productivity, and the cost of reinjury.
Ergonomics doesn’t just save companies money, it improves efficiency, and morale.
Ergonomics can help employees return to work
Ergonomics isn’t just about prevention, it’s about helping employees who have been injured. A large percentage of employees who are injured don’t return to work. Most employees are still physically able to do their job, but do not feel safe doing it.
They may be concerned about reinjury or may not feel that their employer will help them safely transition back to work. An ergonomic evaluation can help an injured employee feel that their needs are being met by having an outside unbiased consultation.
A ergonomics specialist help find ways to prevent injuries from happening and see if an employee is safely able to return to their work environment. An ergonomist can also see the mechanism of injury, and provide equipment or other modifications to reduce awkward position, stress, or strain on the body.
Injury cost calculator
OSHA has developed a calculator that will give an estimated cost based on the type of injury. The calculator gives an estimate of direct and indirect costs with the company’s profit margin.
The purpose of the safety pay calculator is to “help small businesses identify workplace hazards and develop and implement an effective injury and illness prevention program.”
A few examples of office related injuries listed below
|Type of Injury||Direct Costs||Indirect Costs||Total Costs|
|Carpal tunnel syndrome||$30,930||$34,023||$64,953|
That injury calculator estimates the estimated sales that will be needed to cover the direct, indirect, and total costs of the injury.
Business success vs employee success
Great products are built with ergonomics in mind, but many of the products we use on a daily basis haven’t had a design change in over 50 years.
Most products, tools, or instruments have a purpose to serve and how they are used is not always the primary focus. For example, a jack hammer is designed for breaking up cement or concrete, but it was not designed for the worker.
Too often we look at how our business can be more successful or profitable, but we miss the mark when we don’t focus on how the employee can be more successful.
As you can see from the chart above, workplace injuries can be expensive. Employees are especially at high risk from being injured when working in the home office. A home office evaluation can reduce these costs by reducing the mechanisms that increase risk and implementing a prevention program.
I hope this article was helpful. Sign up today for a remote ergonomics evaluation.
David is the lead editor of OT Focus. He has been practicing as an Occupational Therapist since 2013. He specializes in acute care, hand therapy, and ergonomics.