Ergonomics in the workplace isn’t new. In fact, the term "ergonomics" has been used to describe the study of optimizing a work environment for safety and efficiency since the middle of last century.
According to early expert and physician Etienne Grandjean, “Ergonomics is essentially fitting the workplace to the worker. The better the fit, the higher the level of safety and worker efficiency.”
This definition, and this importance, still holds today. In this article, we’ll cover:
- What ergonomics in the workplace is
- Why ergonomics in the workplace matters
- How you can improve ergonomics in the workplace
What is workplace ergonomics?
Ergonomics is essentially the practice of designing the workplace while taking its employees into consideration. The goal is to set up a workplace that maximizes efficiency and ensures safety.
As an employer, it’s your duty to provide a secure work environment for your personnel, and part of this consists of implementing ergonomics in your workplace. It’s the process that shapes the work environment around your employees’ needs and preferences in an effort to promote optimal productivity, moderate discomfort, reduce fatigue, and enhance overall efficiency.
Why do workplace ergonomics matter?
Many musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) involve the muscles, tendons, nerves, joints, discs, and cartilage. These kinds of injuries can occur in employees across various industries due to insufficient or nonexistent ergonomics. Employees in the manufacturing, construction, and other labor-intensive industries are among the most at risk.
Workplace injuries, whether minor or severe, are all too common when employees work on forceful and repetitive tasks, especially any tasks that require twisting, stretching, overexerting, or moving at awkward angles. Low-back disorders, carpal tunnel syndrome, pinched nerves, and tendonitis are a few of the most commonly seen MSDs.
In fact, the Bureau of Labor Statistics showed that, in 2018, 30% of occupational injuries and illnesses were MSDs, with manufacturing ranking among the leading industries.
Not only can ergonomics reduce injury rates, but according to Melissa Afterman CPE, “It positively affects quality, too. According to a recent systematic review of 73 empirical studies, physical fatigue accounted for 42% of the variance in quality deficits1. Making ergonomics improvements to the workplace setup can improve process efficiency and reduce worker fatigue. Ergonomics is good for the worker and ergonomics is good for the business”.
How can you improve ergonomics in the workplace?
If you want fewer complaints and work injuries as well as happier, more productive employees, then you need a solid workplace ergonomics plan.
Here’s how a strong workplace ergonomics program could help your employees and your company:
- Prevents mental and physical stress on valuable employees.
- Improves employee retention (which lowers costly employee turnover rates).
- Creates a safe atmosphere where workers thrive.
- Enhances overall safety culture (which makes your company look better to new or potential hires).
- Promotes positivity (and everyone loves that!).
- Saves your company thousands of dollars in workers’ compensation and health care costs.
- Improves the quality of your products (which saves you money on rework and makes customers happy too).
- Potentially increases product sales (due to the improvement in quality).
- Assures employees that they are appreciated members of your team and that you value their health and wellbeing.
Ergonomics in the workplace matters—for your employees and your business
Why does ergonomics in the workplace matter? Because you need to provide your employees an optimal environment for safe, efficient work—and this can not only benefit employees but your business as a whole. It’s no secret that a productive workforce equals a profitable company. When your people are healthy and satisfied, you and your business will reap the benefits.