I met Kirsty – The Travelling Ergonomist – at a workplace wellness conference last year. Until this time, I under-estimated the power of a scientific-based ergonomics program in a workplace…and how interesting this topic is when presented by someone as awesome as Kirsty.
Since our first meeting, Kirsty and I have collaborated on a number of projects and spoken together at events. She is a real thought leader in all things ergonomics and this article she has written for me is relevant to all workplaces.
Let me ask you a question. What do you think the most expensive part of a workstation is in the office? You may answer chair. You may answer desk. You may answer computer/laptop. All of which are very logical answers. In fact, the most expensive part of a workstation is the person sitting at it! Yet we are not investing in that person enough with regards to ergonomics. Many employees have never had an ergonomic assessment or been shown how to use the equipment at the workstation. This lack of education results in many employees being at a high risk of musculoskeletal disorders and eventually going through workers compensation claims.
In 2014, Washington State Workers Compensation WRMSD (work related musculoskeletal disorder) costs averaged $11,858.87 per case.* 48 workers at the average office could result in an injury, which is a cost of $569K (48 x $11,858.87). Let’s assume that the average ergonomic intervention for each worker is $1000. An intervention would be $48K, which means there would be a return on investments of 12:1. I know what I would rather pay! Btw these are just the injuries that were documented. What about the people who are suffering with discomfort every day but don’t say anything because they are worried about job security or don’t want to make a fuss! Over 52% of us are suffering with at least one musculoskeletal disorder in the workplace.
Many organisations are still implementing a very reactive ergonomics program. When someone has an injury, that’s when we start to do something. At this point, it’s really too late. We are now firefighting. It’s much more difficult to fix a problem when it has already occurred, than put preventive measures in place. The more logical approach would be to implement a proactive program where we can start to ‘vaccinate’ against discomfort and injuries. Implementing a proactive program will yield significant financial savings to the business, and more importantly create a less fatigued, injured workforce and a happier, healthier and more productive one.
Here are the 5 best ergonomic tips that you can teach your workforce right now:
- Our hands and eyes drive our posture forward. Make sure your monitor and keyboard are close to you. This will encourage you to sit back in your chair and gain the full support of the backrest.
- Most desks are too high for people in the office. The average desk height correlates to the seated elbow height of a 6’4’’ male. Make sure your elbows are at the same height as desk height. This will help to avoid shoulder shrugging.
- 9 out of 10 of us suffer from digital eyestrain. Make sure you give your eyes a rest from staring at your devices. Every 20 mins, look 20 feet away, for 20 seconds. Click to tweet
- Spend time adjusting your chair to suit you. The most important adjustment is the recline lock. Keep it unlocked and make sure you adjust the tension so that it holds you upright when typing but is loose enough for you to be able to move freely.
- Take 2-3 x (30-60 seconds) micro breaks per hour away from your desk.
Kirsty holds a BSc in Ergonomics and Human Factors and has worked as a consultant in ergonomic program development for 6 years, working with clients in the UK, Europe, the Middle East and more recently Australia and New Zealand. She works with people across different cultures and industries, learns about their business and educates them on best practices. She takes this responsibility very seriously and strives to help as many people as she can along the way. For more ergonomics tips and advice follow Kirsty Angerer at thetravellingergonomist.com and subscribe to her monthly newsletter!