An employer’s main priority is to provide a safe and healthy workplace where workers can perform their job effectively. Employees often find themselves experiencing discomfort and drowsiness at work without realizing there are simple solutions to help conform to the body’s minor demands while on the job. When looking at ways to prevent strain or injury, one of the first areas an employer should consider is ergonomics. Workplace ergonomics is simply adapting the work environment to the physical needs of employees. Practices as simple as promoting safe lifting procedures and proper posture are ergonomic techniques that can be applied in practically every area of a workplace.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs), such as carpal tunnel syndrome, tendinitis, rotator cuff injuries and muscle strains, were among 33 percent of all work-related injury and illness cases and are most often caused by poor ergonomics. MSDs are a major issue no matter what industry an employee is working in. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) claims workplace overexertion injuries account for 25 percent of total workers compensation costs. Employers can prevent these injuries with an ergonomics program.
Management at Eric Scott Leathers, a manufacturer of high-quality leather products, learned firsthand how beneficial it is to integrate ergonomic techniques to help decrease the exhaustion and strain their employees are exposed to on a regular basis. These are the steps Eric Scott Leathers took to enhance employee safety and morale on the job.
Identify problem areas
It is particularly important to observe the jobs employees are doing to fully understand the risks that come along with them. By identifying needs that are specific to the workplace, employers can pinpoint areas where MSDs occur and, therefore, determine where they need ergonomics the most.
“One of the things that’s unique about us is we produce everything by hand, one piece of a time, from cutting, stitching and assembling,” Lori Cabral, Executive Vice President of Operations for Eric Scott Leathers, said. “It’s a very labor-intensive operation to make our products.”
Keep in mind that every workplace is different, so ergonomic needs will vary. Some employees at Eric Scott Leathers must perform repetitive movements while standing for long periods of time. The company discovered its areas of most need and could then move forward toward creating a system to counteract risk.
Establish a solution
After identifying potential risks within particular jobs, work to come up with procedures to prevent problems from occurring in the first place. This should be something all employees can participate in and are able to benefit from. Since every job at Eric Scott Leathers is physically demanding, Cabral believed it was crucial to establish a system to help prevent strain and injury.
“We felt it was important to partner with someone on the outside to come in and view the actual jobs that the people are doing,” Cabral said. Consultants were able to see the motions employees perform, as well as the amount of weight they lift on the job, to give accurate assessments and present possible workplace ergonomic solutions.
After consulting MEM, Eric Scott Leathers created its stretching program. Through the stretching program, employees stretch for two minutes as a group.
“It allows the employees to stretch the muscles and give some relief to the wrists, the thumbs, the arms, the legs—whatever the task may be throughout the day,” Cabral said.
Practicing these ergonomic techniques encourages employees to exercise at certain times during the day, which also increases morale throughout the workplace.
Create a routine
When it comes to results, the ergonomic system created should be realistic and easily incorporated into employees’ daily schedules. Employees should be able to see improvement over time, which also results in increased morale in the workplace as a whole. To get the most out of workplace ergonomics, train employees on the different ways they can incorporate exercises on a regular basis.
Eric Scott Leather’s stretching program has a distinct schedule, so employees know when it’s time to step away from their workstations and stretch their hands, wrists, arms and legs. Employees stretch for two minutes before their shifts begin at 7 a.m., followed by another stretching session at 9:30 a.m. and one more after their lunch break.
Workplace ergonomic programs do help offset potential risk and unexpected compensation costs, but for Eric Scott Leathers, it’s not about saving money.
“…We’ve received feedback that the conditions that we provide, the programs that we implement, the different things that we promote throughout the year show that we are a company concerned about well-being,” Cabral said. “Just hearing the ‘thank yous’ and the gratitude—it means a lot.”
To help enhance safety, reduce costly injuries and increase employee gratification by ensuring workers stay mobile and healthy, visit our resource library for more on how to incorporate ergonomics into your workplace.