According to the Workplace Safety and Health Council, ergonomic health issues like strained backs caused by heavy lifting, numb wrists resulting from typing too much, and stiff necks from desk hunch, all cost Singapore a staggering $3.5 billion each year.
The International Ergonomics Association defines ergonomics as the understanding of the interactions between humans and systemic elements–how people interact with the spaces that they inhabit. Ergonomics applies the data, principles, theory and methods of studying such interactions to optimize a person’s well being and their system performance–it improves these interactions. For example, an ergonomic chair would provide proper back support to avoid the spine misaligning, which allows a person to work more comfortably and get more things done.
Poor ergonomic practices can lead to work-related musculoskeletal disorders, which can impair the tendons, muscles, and nerves and cause chronic pain and discomfort. This, of course, can lead to higher rates of absenteeism, less productive work days, and poor, office morale.
The WSHC introduced a new set of guidelines to help companies deal with their ergonomic practices. The guidelines on improving workplace ergonomics include tips about heavy lifting and workstation design. What’s more, the Council also has an e-learning module on ergonomic problem awareness that’s in development.
The U.S. also deals with several ergonomic problems as well. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports over 650,000 work-related musculoskeletal disorders that cause U.S. employers to lose more than $20 billion, which includes the cost of workers’ comp and medical expenses that are increasing two and half times faster than the cost of benefits.
Doing nothing can have dire costs. Workers’ Compensation will cost $30,000; excluding surgery, medical bills will cost $29,000; and lost revenue will amount to $702,000.
Employers need to look at ergonomics as an investment–not an expense. Though improving office conditions and redesigning workstations may cost more than employers might like, ergonomics have an impressive return on investment, leading to improved office efficiency and employee well bing, which in turn increase productivity and profits.