Do you have an ergonomic program? Or are you thinking about starting one?
Maybe your company’s management has made ergonomics or similar health and safety initiatives a priority this year, but you really don’t have an idea of how to start the process. Or, maybe the thought hasn’t yet crossed your mind that an in-house ergonomics program would be ideal for your company’s working circumstances. Today’s post is all about why in-house ergonomics initiatives are all-that-and-a-bag-of-chips. Now, I realize that you may be at many different stages in your ergonomics process, but no matter where you are, our aim is to provide value to your organization AND it’s ergonomics! We hope to shed some light on the value of developing your own in-house ergonomics program! More on this in our 6 reasons below!
6 Reasons Why In-House Ergonomic Programs Are Better Than You Think.
Saves You Money
‘Ergonomic’ injuries otherwise known as musculoskeletal injuries can be expensive. If your company has ever dealt with one then you know what I am talking about. That’s where an in-house ergonomics program can provide value to your company (and its employees). Research has firmly proven that poor ergonomics costs your company in worker productivity, absences, discomfort complaints, and workers’ compensation claims. Here are some more facts for you. Research has reported that one in every 65 employed workers in 2009 were injured or harmed while on the job and subsequently received workers compensation (in Canada), where a large portion of these were musculoskeletal injuries. The Canadian economic burden of MSIs alone during this period accounted for $2.65 – 3.94 billion dollars in direct costs and $13.73 – $18.37 billion dollars in indirect costs! Those are HUGE numbers!! Note: If you are unfamiliar with Canada, to place these figures into perspective, back in 2009 Canada had a population of just 30 million people. This also represents a HUGE opportunity for improvement via cost-effective in-house ergonomics initiatives.
Cheaper Than Pricey Consultants
How much would just one ergonomic consultation from an outside source cost you? If you were to guess $500 or $1,000 you would be correct! Assessments may cost anywhere between $500-$1,000 (including travel, tax, etc) for only one assessment. Let’s play the numbers game for a second. If you work in an office with 30 other people, the cost to have everyone assessed would be out of the question for the majority of small businesses because it would cost between $15,000 and $30,000 to get everyone’s workstation assessed! So, many companies must choose only to have those people who are complaining of discomfort assessed. This is very much a reactive and shortsighted strategy that many companies are forced to make because of the high cost of an individual assessment. Obviously this leaves many companies scrambling to get ergonomic assessments completed just in the nick of time and can often be much too late. The ideal time to catch ergonomic risks (and injury risks) is before symptoms are present. And, you know what they say…
An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.
Assessing workers for ergonomic risk and then preventing injury and/or discomfort is a whole lot more effective than only assessing those with severe discomfort symptoms. In the long run in-house ergonomics programs allow you to be more proactive and save some serious cash.
Complete Once, Replicate Often
In my experience ergonomic solutions are often very replicable. What this means is that for the majority of people who work in offices their set-ups would be similar or almost similar. Hey, the majority of staff would be using the exact same type of equipment anyway, right? This can be used to the advantage of your in-house ergonomics program – you don’t have to reinvent the wheel for every assessment! Once you have the keys or foundation of how an office ergonomic assessment works (aka neutral posture and reducing ergonomic risks), then you are set. More on this in the training section (Step 6).
Once you have done the assessment, you have many options for standardization of the report. Ergonomic reports identify any risks during the assessment as well as any ergonomic recommendations that would help to reduce the ergonomic risk. An example of a recommendation would be to lower the height of the monitor (as easy as that) to within a neutral neck posture. Reports are considered to be the gold standard or final say on the employee’s ergonomic concerns at that particular point in time. The good news? It’s up to you how you choose to set-up your in-house ergonomics program. Ergonomic reports can either be short or long; a template with checkmarks or free-wheeled every time. Either way you choose to deliver the reports, standardization is always key to save you time and money!
Ergonomics Teams Vs. The Solo Assessor
The neat thing with in-house ergonomic programs is that they are totally scalable. Depending on the ergonomic needs of your company you can scale up or scale down your process by having either one person or a group of staff trained in office ergonomics trade-off doing assessments. Having a group usually makes in-house ergonomics programs attractive to companies because it doesn’t need to rely on just one person to manage! Another option is scaling the ergonomics process to save time. There are many ways to approach this. This is very near and dear to my heart. I’ve written 2 blogposts on how to scale your ergonomics program based on how I successfully managed an incredibly large organization’s ergonomics program. We are talking BIG, about 7,000 office workers. And I did this entirely on my own. To survive, hacking the ergonomics process was necessary. I did this by using Pre-Consultation Staff Surveys, Presentations to large employee groups, Targeting, Prioritization, and Ergonomics Showrooms. If you run your organization’s ergonomics program and use any other methods to scale it please leave a message below and let me know what you did!! You can check out the Pre-consultation Survey/Ergonomics Showroom and Discomfort Survey blogposts for further information about what I did to save time!
Fix Problems Quickly & Effectively
Staff no longer need to wait long periods of time for an outside company to not only come in and assess their workstation but then to wait for them to deliver the report. From the perspective of an outside company (speaking from experience), it can be difficult at particularly busy times of the year to reach a client for just one assessment. And, sometimes it may take between 10 and 14 days just to book an assessment and usually about 2 weeks for a report with ergonomic recommendations to be delivered to the client afterwords. In that amount of time, the person’s discomfort symptoms may have increased considerably so that they may have actually missed days from work. Hey, I’ve seen it happen before! Any time missed from work, especially if documented as a workers’ compensation claim, will be very costly to ANY company! So, by using an in-house ergonomics program you can effectively and efficiently follow-up with anyone complaining of discomfort and offer immediate solutions to reduce their symptoms. This leads to better results for everyone! Lastly, you know your organization the best, period. You know what will work with specific employees, you know what the management structure is (to help to implement more expensive fixes), and this makes it very much the perfect situation for an in-house ergonomics program to THRIVE!
Training Is Easier Than You Think
The good thing when it comes to incorporating ergonomics into your company is that there are many options. Sometimes I know that it can seem like there are just TOO many options! It all starts with quality training though; it is the foundation to any good in-house ergonomic program. Contrary to popular belief you don’t need to get a degree in ergonomics to perform a valuable ergonomic assessment or run an in-house ergonomics program. The ergonomics training does need to be quality though so that you can provide as much value to your company and colleagues when doing the assessments. With so many online resources available it does tend to crowd the marketplace and I think that it leads to segmented (and sometimes contrarian) information that can easily confuse you. The good news is that office ergonomics is not rocket science, its about keeping people working in neutral postures. And, once you learn how to find these neutral postures, for many people office ergonomics seems like a piece of cake. Even better, if you are able to find training resources that offer some sort of coaching or mentoring since we all know that office ergonomics can seem a little daunting at first.