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The Importance Of Ergonomics In The Workplace

From putting safety measures in place to increasing productivity and boosting your bottom line, there’s a lot of factors that go into running a workplace. Do you really need to add ergonomics to that list?

Interestingly, ergonomics can impact all of the above factors. It plays a key role in making a workplace safe, successful, and profitable and is definitely worth the investment.

Understanding Ergonomics In The Workplace

Ergonomics essentially means the fit between an individual and their environment, which in this case refers to the workplace. Workers spend long hours every week in the workplace performing the same tasks for several hours every day, whether that is working on a computer or pushing, pulling, and lifting heavy items. If performed in an incorrect manner, any of these activities can cause all sorts of musculoskeletal disorders such as muscle strains, back injuries, carpal tunnel syndrome, rotator cuff injuries and tendinitis among others.

Even a seemingly harmless activity such as sitting at a desk in an office all day long can cause back problems if the chair or desk is poorly designed or set at the wrong level. Typing at the computer for several hours in the day using a non-ergonomic setting can increase the risk of carpal tunnel syndrome, back and neck pain, wrist strain, and eye strain. Overextending a ligament because of improper desk set-up can cause sprains and strains. Lifting heavy objects using incorrect movements can result in a hernia.

Ignoring ergonomics in the workplace can expose workers to a wide range of injuries, which ultimately leads to more sick days and lower productivity. These can be prevented by simply using an ergonomic approach in the workplace. Creating a better workplace environment boosts overall well-being and leads to greater productivity and profitability.

Benefits Of Ergonomics In The Workplace

These are some of the proven benefits of ergonomics in the workplace:

  1. Fewer injury compensation claims

Ergonomics plays a crucial role in reducing worker injuries and is as important as other safety measures such as regular maintenance and providing personal protective equipment. Regardless of the exact cause, the direct and indirect costs of a worker’s injury compensation claim can add up to a significant amount. The direct costs are related to ongoing medical treatment while the indirect costs are related to loss of production.

Fewer injuries typically mean fewer compensation claims, which can translate to large cost savings over time.

  1. Reduced absenteeism

An ergonomic workplace reduces the risks of injuries caused due to poor design and ensures that workers are comfortable and healthy. This small change in the workplace environment can lead to fewer employees taking days off due to pain and injuries. Reduced absenteeism means fewer lost workdays, resulting in a higher ROI.

  1. Higher productivity

An ergonomically designed workstation promotes better posture, which reduces the incidence of repetitive strain injuries. It also reduces fatigue and exertion so employees are more likely to be engaged and productive without feeling exhausted or experiencing pain. This leads to higher employee efficiency and productivity,

  1. Better quality

Poor workplace ergonomics adds unnecessary stress and strain on workers. It results in employees who are uncomfortable, fatigued, frustrated, and unable to perform at peak efficiency. This can have a domino effect leading to a poor-quality end product. There’s no denying that employees do their best work when they feel safe, comfortable, and happy. Implementing ergonomic improvements is worth the investment as it results in higher quality, a lower percentage of scrapped products due to errors, and fewer customer complaints.

  1. Lower turnover

Employees recognise and appreciate when their employer puts in the effort to ensure their welfare. Knowing that their employee is committed to making their environment safer, healthier and more comfortable makes workers feel valued. This has a tremendous impact on job satisfaction in the workplace. Employees who feel valued, appreciated, and satisfied are the most valuable asset in any organisation. They are more engaged and productive. They are also more loyal and less likely to quit and seek employment elsewhere.

More and more companies are recognising that integrating ergonomics into all their operations is a small investment considering the returns. The improved productivity, better quality, higher job satisfaction, and lower employee turnover all translate into increased profit margins.

How To Implement Ergonomics In The Workplace

When considering ergonomics in the workplace, keep in mind that its primary purpose is to enhance the comfort, safety and performance of all employees. The exact design implementation will depend on the type of workplace and the tasks performed by employees in that environment. However, there are four broad areas of ergonomics that apply universally – physical, work environment, psychological, and organisational.

Physical ergonomics involves designing a layout and environment that addresses concerns related to working posture, repetitive movements, manual handling, heavy lifting, and musculoskeletal disorders.

Psychological ergonomics seeks to improve lifestyle, cultural, and social factors.  This may include addressing concerns related to workplace stress, work and life balance, employee motivation, teamwork, cultural differences, and human-computer interaction.

Organisational ergonomics focuses on optimising in-house policies and processes related to working time patterns, work design, cooperative work, and staff resource management.

Making ergonomists an integral part of your design and development team is key to ensuring that ergonomics are considered in every system and product that workers use and in the workplace environment as a whole. It’s worth the investment when you consider that it should ultimately result in significantly higher profits.

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