Workplace Health and Safety: What are the costs?
Similar to medical treatment expenses, Workers Compensation costs are rapidly increasing. The majority of costs are spent on occupational musculoskeletal disorders each year. Daily work tasks that involve reaching and lifting, bending, sitting, pushing/pulling, keyboarding, using tools, operating machinery are often performed incorrectly. The stress of improper lifting and sitting techniques accumulates over time and wears the body down. Workplace injuries and illnesses have a major impact on employer costs. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration reports that businesses spend $15 to $20 billion dollars a year on workers compensation costs attributable to musculoskeletal disorders alone. These costs include workers compensation payments, medical expenses and the cost of legal services.
The rising cost of workers compensation can be controlled with the implementation of ergonomics risk management programs in the workplace. Ergonomics evaluates the relationship between our bodies, our tasks, and our surroundings. The goal of ergonomics is to reduce the stress placed on the body from repetitive motions and eliminate injuries associated with the overuse of muscles or bad posture. Business owners must identify potential safety risks and teach people how to use their own bodies in biomechanically correct ways. This is accomplished through designing tasks, work spaces, controls, displays, tools, lightening and equipment to fit the individual employee’s physical capabilities and limitations.
Employers who consider the importance ergonomics not only prevent their workers from experiencing injury, but they save millions of dollars in the process. Work injuries also have direct effects on employees both at work and at home. Becoming injured on the job not only impacts one’s ability to work, but prevents individuals from participating in everyday life activities that he or she enjoys!
At UNH, the Office of Environmental Health and Safety (OEHS) can assist UNH employees with evaluating the work area and job tasks to identify those potential ergonomic risk factors and develop modifications to reduce the potential for an ergonomic related injury. In addition to workstation assessments, they are available to conduct training relative to back/lifting safety, computer workstations, and injury/illness prevention.