5 benefits ergonomics can provide to employers and employees
The science of ergonomics, or human factors engineering, gets its name from the Greek word for work: ergon. This study of workplace efficiency is a recognized science with a body of proven research and practices, and a global community of specialists. In the United States, there are a number of peer-reviewed journals focusing on ergonomics, including a quarterly journal called Human Factors, which has been around since 1957.
Ergonomics first caught on in the U.S. during World War II due to a desire to improve the performance and safety of military systems including aircraft, naval ships, and weaponry. Based on previous research, equipment designers began to acknowledge the importance of considering the operator in the design of equipment. After the war, the research behind ergonomics expanded into the commercial sector to include consumer products, computer systems, and industrial and office sites.
According to Ergonomics.org, ergonomists focus on three basic principles:
- All work activities should permit a worker to adopt several different but equally healthy and safe postures.
- Where muscular force must be exerted, the largest appropriate muscle groups possible should do it.
- Work activities should be performed with the joints at about the mid-point of their range of movement (ROM), particularly the head, trunk, and upper limbs.
Every company wants to increase productivity and minimize worker fatigue. Can incorporating ergonomic workstations provide both of these benefits? Here’s evidence for investing in employee comfort.
Ergonomics is a cost-effective way to enhance products and improve processes in the workplace, which indirectly improves the bottom line of businesses by reducing sick days, health-care expenses, and workers’ compensation costs, as well as improving overall employee health, well-being, and morale.
After an analysis of its injury logs in the early 1990s, AT&T Global Information Solutions in San Diego, California, identified the tasks associated with the company’s three most frequent types of employee injuries: lifting, fastening, and keyboarding. After improving workstations and providing proper lift training for all employees in line with recognized ergonomic standards, the company’s workers’ compensation costs fell by $1.48 million over a four-year period.
Elevated Employee Engagement
When a company is committed to health and safety, employees take notice. Greater employee engagement through ergonomics has been found to reduce employee fatigue, turnover, and absenteeism; and in turn improve health, morale, and efficiency.
When workers are frustrated and tired because a job task is too physically demanding due to poor ergonomics, they never do their best work, which can adversely affect quality and lead to a quality issue. For instance, consider a factory worker who does not fasten a screw tightly enough due to a reach issue or an office worker who hurries through a complex document after spending all day in an uncomfortable office chair.
Improved Safety Culture
When an employer places a priority on providing employees with ergonomic workstations, it demonstrates a company’s commitment to safety and health, and instills a strong culture of safety that leads to better organizational performance.
Stay Healthy and Prevent Workplace Injuries
Do you want to find out more about how ergonomics can improve your workplace, or need help improving your corporate return-to-work program? We offer intervention tools such as job-site analyses and ergonomic assessments for employers of all sizes, and with more than 150 conveniently located physical therapy clinics, we’re here to help you minimize your risk of encountering a work comp case.