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How Ergonomics Impacts the Cost of Doing Business

June 18, 2012
In difficult economic times, ergonomics programs can help businesses cut costs, reduce workers’ compensation claims and increase productivity.

In the United Sates today, companies are struggling for survival. The financial crisis has affected all types of industries and negatively impacted bottom lines. The good news is that implementing an ergonomics program can help trim operating expenses by reducing costs and improving productivity.

Reducing workers’ compensation claims, lost work time and human error – all possible through a good ergonomics program – can spell cost savings for employers. That’s more important now than ever in our current fiscal crisis, when many companies are forced to work with fewer employees who are doing more jobs.

After all, why would any employer want to hire employees to work in jobs that might have high risk factors for injuries or lead to lost work time, workers’ compensation claims and lastly disability claims?

Ergonomics is the Answer

Through an applied ergonomics process, any company, no matter how small or large, can establish a cost-effective program that assists employees in their job tasks and provides knowledge for new purchases such as equipment, tools, workstations, etc., with metrics to understand the cost benefit. Ergonomics also provides a pathway for sound return-to-work policies that ensure injured employees will return to work quickly and to meaningful jobs – not to jobs that may have contributed to their injury.

Upper management must understand musculoskeletal injuries are not part of doing business and do not have to be an expectation of expense. We can control the risk factors and mitigate the tasks to allow for greater productivity and higher profits with reduced operating costs.

Applied ergonomics is the answer. It is a proven science for becoming proactive and not accepting injury trending. It provides the changes in any workplace to reduce operating costs and increase the profitability while keeping employees safe and free of risk factors.

The Future is Ergonomics

The latest trends make it clear that change is necessary in the way management thinks about the cost of doing business. The old adage “bad news travels fast” is very true, but what people don’t say is, “it takes good news longer.” Data over the past 20 years established the necessity for ergonomics in changing job/task methodologies, tool and equipment design and purchasing and the need for sound training, establishing policies and procedures and early reporting mechanisms.

What about the aging work force? The United States soon will begin to experience labor shortages in highly skilled jobs as Baby Boomers retire. Have you given thought to succession planning, or better yet, maintaining your older work force – a work force that consists of skilled employees with good work ethics who can become mentors to younger, less experienced employees?

We must make the changes needed in our workplaces to assist organizations in maintaining their financial viability. If done correctly, ergonomics can bring employees back to work based on the sound, logical, return-to-work processes. This is one way to grow the American economy through smart job designs. They won’t have to be redesigned because they were designed correctly from the beginning.

Why should companies make ergonomic changes to the work environment, tasks, tools and equipment? Some of the most common reasons include:

➤ Improve the safety and health of workers;

➤ Reduce the company’s costs associated with lost work time and workers’ comp;

➤ Reduce issues of productivity and/or quality;

➤ Mitigate regulatory concerns;

➤ Assist in bid processes to gain more business; and

➤ Reduce waste and increase profits.

Making Changes

Although one would hope companies make changes to the work environment to improve the safety and health of workers, some organizations place more emphasis on the other reasons in their decision making process – reasons that all revolve around cost savings and sound business decisions.

Companies do not always realize, however, that a relationship exists between any and all of the reasons they may choose to make changes to the work environment. Metrics are necessary to track the costs and savings every time ergonomics is designed into a job description or product. Making these changes to improve the safety and health of workers will reduce a company’s costs, improve productivity and quality issues, decrease any negative labor relations and in general make any organization more profitable.

If you have not already implemented an ergonomics process, give it a try. Create a pilot project, train your team and assess which jobs are costing the most to the body and to the budget. It doesn’t have to be difficult. The first step is making it happen.

Cynthia Roth is founder and CEO of Ergonomic Technologies Corp. and is a member of EHS Today’s editorial advisory board. She was the first woman elected chairperson of the ASSE Foundation Board and, in 2010, was named to ASSE’s list of 100 Women – Making a Difference in Safety.

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