Jeff Symons, MSE, CEAS, CEAC – Rehabilitation Engineer
You would not want to walk around with shoes that do not fit you well or are the wrong size. In that vein, it is important to have proper fitting equipment at work. However, most people have no idea of the proper ergonomic position or even how to adjust their chair. They just sit down and start working. Often times the chair may be adequate for their needs, but they are unaware of how to adjust it properly. Or the desk height is not right, monitor size and distance are improper, or lighting inadequate.
Most people have heard about ergonomics and how following the right principles can avoid injuries and provide a more productive work environment. Although there are a number of studies that support this, many businesses put this low on their priority list and never invest in ergonomic assessments until an individual has an injury. With repetitive motion injuries such as carpal tunnel becoming more and more frequent, now is a time to do some simple things to prevent these injuries.
Answers to ergonomics and injury prevention:
- Besides assessing an individual employee’s physical needs and specific work environment, an assessor will show the person how to adjust their chair, keyboard, mouse, font size, and foot position. As well, they will explain a good ergonomic position and the importance of taking micro stretch breaks throughout the day.
- Assessments usually last about 20– 30 minutes/person and cost around $50/person depending on total number in group, travel, and how detailed a report is desired.
- Most ergonomists who perform ergonomic assessments do not have a vested interest in selling any equipment (they should reveal this ahead of time).
- Musculoskeletal disorders (such as carpal tunnel) are entirely preventable and quite unnecessary injuries that cost the US economy billions of dollars and inflict misery and suffering on affected workers.
The largest expense is a basic ergonomic chair that fits the staff person well ($300-$400). Additional items such as a foot rest ($40), wrist rest ($20), document holder ($50), and monitor risers ($30) are typical items that might be recommended in an injury prevention assessment. OSHA estimates the average cost of an ergonomic injury is $30,000.00. (http://www.creativesafetypublishing.com/how-much-does-an-ergonomic-injury-cost/)
Here are some documented benefits of an Injury Prevention Program:
- Cost-effective and simple way to reduce workers’ comp injuries and costs
- Prevents multiple potential injuries by training the workforce on best practices
- Increases employee morale and builds teamwork
- Increases worker productivity
- Reduces lost time
- Mitigates the risks associated with an aging workforce
In closing, besides the injury prevention and avoidance of lost staff time, the benefit to employee morale is incredible. Having conducted a number of these injury prevention assessments, I can tell you first-hand how often employees respond very positively that their employer would bring someone to help make their work environment more comfortable.
As the saying goes, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” This is never truer than in the injury prevention area of ergonomics.
Jeff Symons, MSE, CEAS, CEAC is a Rehabilitation Engineer, providing a variety of services for ergonomic assessments, recommendations, and rehabilitation consultation. He can be reached at 916.933.2375; firstname.lastname@example.org; www.jeffsymonsconsulting.com