The Real Impact Of Poor Ergonomics, By The Numbers

Did you know that U.S. companies spend $94 billion on workers’ compensation costs annually? It’s a shockingly large number. However, the good news is that — as a general trend — this number is steadily decreasing as more companies invest time and effort into improving work conditions for their employees. The bad news is, much work remains to ensure employees have safe working environments and are protected while performing their normal, daily tasks. Fortunately, improving ergonomics can have a significant impact on reducing those workers’ compensation costs. Here are a few statistics that detail why companies need to be proactive as (opposed to reactive) to reduce both risks and costs.

The American workforce is aging, and not especially gracefully. Today, workers’ average age is 46. Fifty years ago, in 1970, workers’ average age was 28 years old. That’s a big difference. Further, Americans simply are not as fit as they used to be. More than a third of the current population is classified as being obese. Ergonomic training and assist equipment solutions can help older or less fit workers complete tasks with less effort and at greater productivity rates.

Annually there are more than 380,600 cases of ergonomic injuries leading to missed days of work. Industries with highest incident rates include warehousing and manufacturing — where a lot of material handling tasks are routinely performed. That translates into 32% of all workers’ compensation claims being attributed to material handling activities.

Many of these injuries result from repetitive motion or overexertion. Although less obvious, repetitive motion injuries include strained muscles and tendons that cause myriad issues, including back pain and carpal tunnel syndrome. Overexertion injuries typically result from activities relating to pulling, pushing, lifting, carrying and holding materials.

Improved training has not proved to have a real impact; conversely, equipment can help ergonomically position materials and significantly reduce physical strains. Although investments in automation and robotics can certainly help eliminate some injuries, many operations remain years, or even decades, away from replacing humans with such technologies. Today, however, solutions exist to address these ergonomic problems and stop the costs associated with them. Consider an investment in ergonomic equipment and training to help preserve your aging workforce and mitigate the financial risks associated with employee injuries, missed days, and costly workers compensation claims.

Need more guidelines for improving the ergonomics of your workforce? The members of the Ergonomic Assist Systems & Equipment (EASE) Industry Group of MHI offer a variety of checklists for free download, here.