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You Might Have an Ergonomics Problem If…

Many companies face ergonomics issues without even realizing it. Everyone, at one point or another, becomes complacent with their environment, and employers can easily forget how to objectively observe the workplace.

It is normal to fall into these ruts—we are human, after all—but ergonomics issues can lead to costly, harmful musculoskeletal disorders, injuring workers and eroding your bottom line. According to OSHA, MSDs now account for 1 out of every 3 dollars spent on workers’ compensation claims.[i] Eliminating them would cut costs by one third.

These problems can be prevented, too, if the symptoms are spotted early.

Is your workplace at risk? It’s very possible. Keep in mind that you might have an ergonomics problem if you notice the following issues.

Telltale Data

Has your HR department been hounding you about certain illuminating data? Spreadsheets and reports are often good tools for gaining a straightforward view of the impact of ergonomics issues. And you may have an ergonomics problem if…

  • …your HR department reports high rates of employee turnover. This may indicate employees who are unhappy with strenuous conditions are leaving, or employees are getting injured and replaced.
  • Our healthcare compensation costs for strain injuries continue to rise. A good sign that ergonomics issues have plagued your workplace is if you have to devote more and more of your bottom line to paying for injuries.

Workers’ Behaviors

Have your employees seemed a little off lately? Grumpy? Disgruntled? This could have multiple causes, of course, but some of those could be ergonomically related. Remember, employees are at their best when they are in a healthy environment. And you just might have an ergonomics problem if…

  • …your workers are cranky or have poor attitudes at work.
  • …your workers are regularly bidding out of jobs. Leaving one job for another is a sign that something is wrong with the first. Talk to employees to see if that job was too strenuous and causing them physical pain.
  • …your workers are massaging specific body parts. A little stretching or kneading of the muscles is never a bad idea, but continuous rubbing is a sign that ergonomics issues are putting too much stress on the body.
  • …your workers are modifying their work area or tools. Some employees take it upon themselves to alter their environment—and not always for the better. Are your workers padding their tools with tape or foam, or raising their chairs or desks? This means they are trying to solve complex ergonomics issues that management should handle instead. Remember, it is not up to workers to create a safe and healthy environment. What is more, these well-meaning adjustments could actually cause more problems in the long run.
  • …your workers bring their own work gloves, back belts, or wrist braces. As with altering their work area, employees may also bring in personal devices to make strenuous work more bearable. If you notice this, you should check in to see if something about the environment itself needs to be changed before someone gets seriously injured.

Environmental Hazards

It is difficult to perceive everyday things anew. But with conscious effort and mindful attention you can spot the first signs of your workplace slipping into an ergonomics abyss. Remember it is best to catch these signs early, before injuries become too serious, and that you might already have an ergonomics problem if…

  • …you have multiple jobs that require the use of vibrating machinery. Like repetitive motions, vibrating machinery puts stress on workers’ bodies, and these forces are exacerbated by the abnormal power of mechanical equipment.

  • …you find yourself hiring employees based on body types: taller people for lifting jobs, shorter people for ground level jobs, etc. Once you begin to rule workers out of certain jobs because of physical demands, it is probably time to reassess the job itself.

If any of these signs sound familiar, you may have an ergonomics issue in your workplace. In time these issues can develop into serious MSDs, costing money and injuring employees. If you have ergonomics problems, and need more information on how the Spine Research Institute can help you create a safer, more efficient workplace, please email us or call 614-219-6063.

[i] United States Department of Labor. Occupational Safety & Health Administration. Prevention of Work Related Musculoskeletal Disorders. 2014. 31 Mar. 2015.