A new study from the Workplace Safety and Health (WSH) council reveals that ergonomic problems are an expensive issue for businesses. In Singapore, ergonomic problems cost companies $3.5 billion a year, and back injuries that develop at work are getting a new classification term because of their prevalence. Singapore’s WSH now defines back issues as work-related musculoskeletal disorders and is developing guidelines to help employees improve ergonomics. The recognition of the problem is a positive step considering this is a global issue for workers.
Health risks at work often fall into the ergonomic category because of repetitive tasks that require employees to remain at their desks. However, workers in other industries also experience ergonomic problems that can range from lifting objects to carrying heavy items inappropriately. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reveals that the cost of ergonomic injuries is $20 billion a year in the United States, and the number continues to increase.
An injured employee can cost companies money through several ways including the loss of work, worker’s compensation, potential lawsuits and medical bills. It is also important to consider that other staff may have to work overtime, or employers may have to hire temp workers while the injured employee is gone. Problems that develop from poor ergonomics in the workplace are preventable, so these costs can be avoided.
Back injuries are some of the most common issues that develop from poor ergonomics in the office, and the CDC lists them as one of the top ten reasons for a visit to the doctor. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics also shares that these types of injuries were at the top of musculoskeletal disorders that occurred at work. Back injuries can range from temporary discomfort to permanent disability, so they are an important consideration in the workplace.
The CDC, OSHA and other organizations around the world have issued guidelines to help people improve ergonomics in the office, and one of the recommendations focuses on the office chair. The Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety (CCOHS) has specific tips to help employees find the perfect chair for their desks. It is important to consider the ergonomic rating of a chair and how it addresses specific back pain issues. The right chair will be comfortable while offering the correct amount of support for the back and may need to be adjustable to fit a person’s needs. The CCOHS recommends spending a significant amount of time selecting a chair because it can have a large impact on wellbeing in the workplace.
Organizations have shown numerous statistics that prove poor ergonomics in the office costs businesses billions every year, yet many companies continue to hesitate to make changes. One of the reasons cited by experts for this hesitation is the initial investment that is necessary to improve the ergonomics and workspaces of employees. However, companies need to consider the long-term impact of their decisions, and how much they can lose due to injured or sick workers.