Learn how ergonomics can help you lower costs by preventing musculoskeletal disorders.
Ergonomics adds value to organizations in many ways. One of the most commonly cited benefits of ergonomics is the reduction in musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) and the corresponding reduction in worker’s compensation and other costs associated with these injuries.
The cost of musculoskeletal disorders
Musculoskeletal disorders are an all too common injury in the workplace today, representing 33% of workers compensation costs. (See the infographic below for more on the cost of MSDs.)
Study: costs and benefits of ergonomics
The Washington State Department of Labor and Industries reviewed 250 ergonomics case studies to reveal the impact of ergonomics on business goals like cost savings, productivity and product quality.
What did they find? That ergonomics is well worth the investment. You can check out an overview of their findings here: Examples of Costs and Benefits of Ergonomics [PDF]
Many of the organizations in these case studies were able to significantly reduce costs by preventing MSDs:
- American Express Financial Advisors lowered costs by 80%
- Blue Cross Blue Shield created an insurance dividend of $1 million
- 3M had a 64% reduction in OSHA injury and illness rate
- Siemens VDO Automotive decreased strain injuries from 43 percent to 0. Savings of 20,000 hours per year in time previously lost to pain, doctor visits, and time off.
How does ergonomics lower risk and prevent musculoskeletal disorders?
Ergonomics is the science of designing the workplace, keeping in mind the capabilities and limitations of the worker. Poor workplace design leads to fatigued, frustrated and hurting workers.
A systematic ergonomics improvement process removes risk factors that lead to musculoskeletal injuries and allows for improved human performance and productivity. This process reduces highly repetitive tasks, reduces awkward postures, and reduces high force requirements — all primary risk factors that lead to MSDs.
Reducing high repetition
High task repetition, when combined with other risks factors such high force and/or awkward postures, can contribute to the formation of MSD. A job is considered highly repetitive if the cycle time is 30 seconds or less.
Excessive or unnecessary motions should be reduced if at all possible. In situations where this is not possible, it is important to eliminate excessive force requirements and awkward postures.
Reducing awkward postures
Awkward postures move away from the neutral posture toward the extremes in range of motion. This puts more stress on the worker’s musculoskeletal system, is a contributing risk factor for MSDs, and should be avoided. Good ergonomic design helps workplace athletes stay in neutral postures.
Neutral postures are postures where the body is aligned and balanced while either sitting or standing, placing minimal stress on the body and keeping joints aligned. Neutral postures minimize the stress applied to muscles, tendons, nerves and bones and allows for maximum control and force production.
Reducing high force requirements
Eliminating excessive force requirements will reduce worker fatigue and the risk of MSD formation in most workers. Using mechanical assists, counter balance systems, adjustable height lift tables and workstations, powered equipment and ergonomic tools will reduce work effort and muscle exertions.
Lowering costs with ergonomics
A proactive ergonomic improvement process that lowers injury risk is a valuable and necessary component of your safety process. High worker’s compensation costs due to MSDs is not an invevitable cost of doing business. These injuries can be prevented.
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- 5 Proven Benefits of Workplace Ergonomics
- Examples of Costs and Benefits of Ergonomics
- The Advantages of Ergonomics
- Cost Benefit Studies that Support Tackling Musculoskeletal Disorders
- Return on Investment for Ergonomic Interventions
- How Ergonomics Impacts the Cost of Doing Business