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The Benefits of Workplace Ergonomics

Posted 5/11/2018 by UHBlog

Setting up your workplace ergonomically helps employees stay safe and boosts productivity. We can help you fix areas that need improvement to reduce employee stress, injuries and/or disorders.

Businessman in suit standing in office with hands crossed on chest

If an employee says her neck hurts from hunching over a computer keyboard all day, don’t dismiss her concerns. There is something you can do about it.

“Maybe you need to change a workstation,” says physician assistant Elizabeth Newsome, PA-C. “For example, investing in a different type of chair with armrests or supportive back, making sure the height is correct for viewing the screen, as well as getting a standing desk so the employee isn't sitting all day long could be a better option. You might even change the lighting on the computer screen to avoid eye fatigue.”

These changes fall under the purview of workplace ergonomics – or the science of how anatomical, physiological, mechanical and, sometimes, mental and emotional principles affect how people do their jobs.

“Shifting our focus in the workplace environment from treatment to prevention is the main goal,” Newsome says. “You want to keep people safer and help your company overall.”

Newsome says making ergonomic changes in your workplace can:

  • Decrease insurance premiums
  • Decrease workers compensation claims
  • Lower absenteeism
  • Increase employee productivity
  • Sharpen employee attention to detail
  • Grow employee engagement and retention
  • Boost safety

Some ergonomic changes require an upfront investment in equipment and training, but various studies show it's money well spent to protect your employees. Unfortunately, injuries and even deaths occur at workplaces across the spectrum – at offices, retail centers, factories, farms and construction sites.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), 2016 OSHA findings revealed:

  • 5,190 Americans were killed on the job, which averages about 14 deaths a day
  • 892,000 Americans were injured or had illnesses that caused them to miss an average of eight days of productivity
  • Injured American workers incurred $61.8 billion in workers compensation claims.

If you dig deeper into these finding, they uncover the most common injuries:

  • Back and neck strains, from heavy lifting or bad posture
  • Falls and slips, on construction sites or over boxes or furniture clogging high-traffic areas
  • Concussions, from falls or being hit by equipment or machinery
  • Lacerations, from malfunctioning equipment
  • Carpal tunnel syndrome, from repetitive motions

But Newsome says employers can reduce the likelihood of workplace injuries by implementing these 11 practices:

  1. Provide potential employees with a detailed job description to make sure they’re comfortable performing the duties. If the job requires lifting 70 pounds, is the candidate capable of that?
  2. Require pre-hire physicals by an occupational health specialist who knows what to look for. These can be done conveniently and quickly at one of six UH Occupational Health clinics throughout Northeast Ohio.
  3. Fit workstations to meet each worker’s needs.
  4. Adjust the light on computer screens to reduce eye strain.
  5. Use protective equipment – such as goggles, masks or respirators – when appropriate.
  6. Encourage breaks for employees to stretch.
  7. Train employees on how to lift safely or sit with proper posture.
  8. Make sure workers are fully trained on all equipment required for their job.
  9. Be open to suggestions from employees about what will make their job more comfortable.
  10. Hire a company that specializes in workplace ergonomics. Experts like those available through UH Employer Solutions visit your workplace, assess the risks and make suggestions for mitigating them.
  11. Implement an overall workplace wellness program.

If you're interested in making ergonomic changes in your workplace, connect with University Hospitals Employer Solutions for more information.

Elizabeth Newsome, PA-C is a certified physician assistant at University Hospitals Occupational Health in Beachwood. You can request an appointment with Newsome or any other health care provider online.

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