Ergonomics still needs to be enhanced in many workplaces for both employers and employees, and many companies have started to look into office ergonomics assessments to find ways to improve them. Ergonomics is the study of people’s efficiency in their work environment and making sure the work fits the worker, and a focus on ergonomics in the workplace seeks to optimize the well-being of employees as well as their overall performance with the job. Injuries due to poor ergonomics cost companies up to $18 billion annually, and most of these incidents are preventable with the proper tools and training. With a combination of risk factors in an environment, some even including temperature and lighting, employees are more at risk for various conditions, such as musculoskeletal conditions. Poor ergonomics can also have long-term health consequences for workers, such as spinal degeneration, heightened risk of injury, lowered metabolic rate, higher absenteeism rate, respiratory dysfunction, postural aging, and decreased productivity. Ergonomics affects both employers and employees, so we will look into who holds responsibility for ergonomics in the workplace.
Who is Responsible for Ergonomics in the Workplace?
According to OSHA, in the workplace, the responsibility for ergonomics primarily falls on the employer, and they are responsible for providing a safe and healthful workplace for their employees. If an employer focuses on improving the workspace through training and proper equipment for the work taking place, they will see many improvements from employees. With a better and safer working environment, some improvements include improved working conditions, increased employee productivity, less risk of injury, and less absenteeism. The employees’ overall morale will also improve, reducing employee turnover. It would also save the employer money, especially considering that one third of workers’ compensation costs are from annual ergonomic injuries.
An employer can take responsibility for ergonomics in the workplace by incorporating an ergonomics program. This approach first assesses the problems in the workplace, then finds and implements solutions to match, and a great program involves:
- Setting clear goals
- Involving the employees
- Offering support from management
- Identifying problem areas
- Implementing solutions
- Measuring and evaluating the program’s progress
Through these steps, an employer continues to improve their employees’
conditions while increasing productivity and decreasing costs from injury claims and absenteeism. With BHS’s ergonomic program, we go through five steps to improve ergonomics in a workplace, including assessing, designing, implementing, educating, and supporting.
Employers are responsible for creating a safe workplace for their employees, and they can start by implementing an ergonomic process to minimize risks of any injuries taking place over time, such as musculoskeletal. Training in proper ergonomics would be beneficial in helping employees understand appropriate ways to keep themselves safe and productive.
The Role of Workplace Stakeholders in Observing Ergonomics
The different workplace stakeholders each have their roles in observing ergonomics. The employer’s primary responsibility is to provide employees with a safe and healthful workplace, which they can do by implementing ergonomic principles. Keeping management committed to setting clear goals for the ergonomics program and supporting employees will reduce the number of MSDs in the workplace, which develop slowly and over time due to everyday activities. Since the main goal is to keep employees safe and healthy, involving them and providing training to them about ergonomics and the early symptoms of MSDs can help bridge communication and improve the workspace even more. The essential pieces are implementing solutions and evaluating the progress of the ergonomic process they have chosen, and this involves going back to the goals from the beginning of the ergonomics process and seeing if they have met the goals over time.
While the primary responsibility falls on the employer, employees should also follow through with their role in good ergonomics in the workplace. Although they have less power in designing the workplace, if employee training is available regarding workplace ergonomics, knowing examples of good ergonomics would be a great first defense against injury in the workplace. It is also essential for employees to analyze their workspace and observe if they can recognize warning signs in their own workstations that are signs of poor ergonomics. Some symptoms include shaking or rubbings hands or arms, wearing braces on backs or arms, rolling of shoulders, or having to modify their own tools and workspaces. Suppose employees can recognize these signs and provide feedback and suggestions to their employers about any ways to improve the workspace supplied to them. In that case, it can prevent injuries before they happen and improve the circumstances for them and other employees. A good ergonomics program will take these suggestions and find solutions for them. It will enhance any aspects of the program that the employer might have missed while showing employees their feedback is valued.
With the dedication of an employer and valued input from its employees, excellent workplace ergonomics can increase productivity and keep employees healthy and safe. For more information about our employer program plans to improve your workspace today, please contact BioFunctional Health Solutions.