Repetitive stress injuries are a frequent reason for workers’ comp claims at facilities around the nation.
Claims from these cumulative injuries cost a shocking average of $30,268. Businesses are also losing valuable employees while they wait for them to heal, which can mean productivity takes a hit. What’s worse, employees won’t be happy with their jobs if the work causes them pain.
What if you could avoid the problems that cause repetitive stress injuries while also increasing efficiency? By being mindful of ergonomics in the workplace, you can.
Read on to learn about the definition of ergonomics and how to apply it to an industrial setting.
What Are Workplace Ergonomics?
Jobs that involve repetitive movements can lead to several musculoskeletal injuries over time. These include:
- Carpal tunnel syndrome
- DeQuervain’s disease
- Thoracic outlet syndrome
- Tension neck syndrome
- Back pain
Ergonomics is a branch of science that strives to reduce these workplace injuries by designing with humans in mind.
From an industrial standpoint, the ergonomic definition comes from OSHA guidelines. They call ergonomic principles the act of “fitting a job to a person”.
This reflects the fact that ergonomic design isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach. You’ll have to adjust equipment for the height, wingspan, and other characteristics of the person using it.
Designing for Ergonomics in the Workplace
It’s hard to picture ergonomics at work in your company if you haven’t incorporated the philosophy before. To get you started, here are a few things to consider as you make changes to your equipment.
Get an Ergonomic Assessment
When the health of your employees is on the line, it’s often best to start by calling in an expert. Consider having a professional (often a physical or occupational therapist) evaluate your facility and offer recommendations. One such professional consulting institution is The Ergonomics Center of North Carolina State University (https://www.ergocenter.ncsu.edu/).
Even if you don’t have a formal assessment done, ask your employees how you could improve their workspaces and procedures. They know their jobs best and live with the consequences—good or bad—every day of their lives. They’ll be able to give you valuable insight into whether their duties and spaces are ergonomic or not.
Ask Employees to Report Injuries
Many times, employees are afraid to tell their managers about developing repetitive stress injuries. They fear backlash, being passed up for promotions, or other negative consequences. This can lead to ignoring minor injuries until they’re serious enough to warrant a workers’ comp claim.
To keep this from happening, encourage your staff members to report cumulative stress injuries as soon as they start to notice discomfort. Inform them that you’re working to improve both your equipment and processes to keep them healthy. Make sure they know they won’t get in trouble for speaking up, especially since their input can also help others who work the same job.
Minimize Awkward and Stressful Motions
In many industrial jobs, like packing, shipping, and material handling, repetitive motions are unavoidable. What you can avoid, though, are repetitive motions that are awkward or place undue stress on the body.
Make sure that your workstations keep everything within the proper ergonomic reach zones. Your employees should never have to twist or strain to reach items or operate the equipment.
Don’t ignore the little things. Even changing the angle of a computer monitor, raising the height of a workstation, or providing a cushioned mat to stand on can make a huge difference.
Remember that workplace ergonomics have to fit individuals. Even if you make great accommodations for your first-shift employees, the benefits may go out the window if you leave things set up the same for the next shift.
Rather than setting up a different workstation to match each employee, invest in moveable and adjustable equipment. Using carts on casters instead of stationary tables can accommodate both right- and left-handed workers. Adjustable-height cantilever stations adapt to short and tall employees alike with the press of a button.
A modern ergonomic workstation should be able to accommodate 90% of your users with ease. For the other 10%, adding accessories like a stool can still make it comfortable to use.
To make the transition between users easier, have each employee adjust the equipment to their needs and then mark the setting with their initials or a colored sticker. That way, when it’s time for a shift change, no one has to waste time figuring out how high they should raise chairs or tables. In addition, our powered workstations offer memory settings on the control switches that allow them to store their ergonomically sound working height.
Every industrial facility has different supplies, processes, and goals. As such, the ergonomic workstation your employees need often doesn’t exist in a mass-produced format.
When planning a custom workstation design, there are a few things you should keep in mind. First, make a list of every item the job requires. Organize that list by priority and frequency of use.
Next, make sure your employees will have easy access to all the inventory they use regularly. All their primary equipment should fall within the ergonomic reach zones mentioned earlier.
Finally, optimize your material handling processes. Provide equipment that keeps employees from having to lift heavy items up to their workstations or carry them for long distances.
Explain How to Use the New Equipment
Last but not least, even the best ergonomic equipment can lead to injuries if your employees don’t know how to use it. Make sure to go over how to adjust workstations, avoid awkward motions, and use proper lifting techniques.
Does Your Industrial Facility Use Ergonomic Design?
If your company hasn’t adapted its’ workstations with ergonomics in mind yet, now is the time to get started. Not only could you avoid more workers’ compensation claims, but you might also see an increase in morale and revenue as employees are able to do their jobs more efficiently.
Are you looking for custom workstations that meet your employee’s unique ergonomic needs? Take a look at our configurator tool. This 3D design tool lets you choose from almost all the available standard options and accessories to design the perfect cantilevered station for your facility.
Do you still have questions about incorporating ergonomics in the workplace? Feel free to contact us online or give us a call today.