Musculoskeletal Disorders (MSDs) are common work-related injuries in today’s workplace. In fact, they are among the leading causes of workday injuries and illnesses. These specific types of injuries impact workers across a wide range of industries.
TheBureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that in 2011, the highest fields for MDS injuries were health care, transportation, warehousing, wholesale trade and construction, and retail. During that same year, MDS injuries accounted for nearly one third of all worker injuries and illnesses.
What Specific Injuries can Ergonomic Workstations Prevent?
Choosing the right equipment for employee workstations can make a world of difference when it comes to avoiding MSDs and other injuries related to strain. These injuries include things like carpal tunnel syndrome, tendinitis, bursitis, plantar fasciitis, and more. Ergonomic workstations work under the assumption that prevention is the best cure.
Principles of Workplace Ergonomics
According to the American Chiropractic Association (ACA), there are three basic principles to follow when it comes to creating a more ergonomic workplace.
- Let the largest muscles do the heavy lifting, when it comes to lifting in order to stress smaller, more vulnerable, muscles less.
- Work activities should allow employees to assume several different postures, rather than requiring them to remain in one position for an extended period of time.
- Joints should be allowed to remain in their neutral posture or approximately halfway into the range of motion when performing tasks. Extreme range of motion leads to abnormal stress that can cause repetitive stress injuries.
How do Employers Make Workstations more Ergonomic?
In order to make workstations more ergonomic for employees, consider incorporating these ideas into all workstations:
- Allow adjustable height monitors so employees aren’t forced to constantly look down in order to see computer monitors.
- Provide employee headsets for all employees who must spend a great deal of their workdays on the phone.
- Encourage frequent, short, breaks so that employees can stand, stretch muscles, and close their eyes for a quick minute in order to recharge the muscles and the mind. Ideally, employees should get out of their chairs for short periods every 20 to 40 minutes.
- Provide paper holders employees can place next to computer monitors so they aren’t constantly glancing back and forth.
- Create policies regarding lifting so that employees aren’t putting their backs at risk in order to lift heavy boxes, water bottles, etc.
- Encourage employees to alternate computer tasks with those that are not performed on the computer in order to break up the day.
- Provide adequate lighting for employee workstations and reduce glare from windows and overhead lighting whenever possible.
- Provide chairs that offer adequate back support and adjustability. Different workers have different needs. Allowing them to adjust their chairs allows them to create a more suitable and comfortable work environment for themselves.
Little changes, like these, yield big results when it comes to increased productivity, reduced absenteeism, and better overall employee morale. Keep in mind though that you can’t prevent all work-related stress injuries no matter how many shifts you make in policy and design. When injuries like carpal tunnel syndrome happen, you need a quality workers’ compensation policy to protect your employees and your business.