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ignoring it may cost you


worker with back pain

ergonomics - ignoring it may cost you

Poor ergonomics may be costing your company more than you think. The workers' compensation cost alone of injuries can be staggering. Shown below are average claim costs for several injury types. This is based on the extensive data from the California Workers' Compensation Institute that reflects 70% of all California Workers' Compensation carrier claims reported from 1996-2000. These figures have not been adjusted into today's treatment costs, so they are likely to be understated.

These amounts are often dwarfed by indirect costs and productivity/quality costs. The indirect costs of an injury are reported to be 1.1 to 4.5 times the injury costs (Fed/OSHA Safety Pays) and include the following:

  • Time loss by supervisors and managers to assist the injured employee, investigate the injury, complete workers' compensation paperwork, and select and train a replacement worker. Also included is production downtime, lost time of the injured employee, overtime to cover for the injured employee, etc.

The productivity and quality losses associated with poor ergonomics can be staggering as well, adding another 2 to 10 times the workers' compensation costs (Auburn Engineers). Examples includes:

  • Poor workstation design can add extra motions. Reaching, bending, and twisting are not only harmful on a repetitive basis, but they are also time-consuming.

  • Difficult tasks often result in high worker turnover rates. High turnover leads to higher reject rates and added training costs.

  • Poor tool design or selection can cause harmful postures and excessive forces, leading to improper assembly and slowed production

  • Excessive forces, repetitions, and poor postures can lead to fatigue. Fatigued workers produce less and make more errors.

Clearly, the cost of poor ergonomics goes far beyond the injury cost and taking steps to improve ergonomics is within employers' control and in their financial interest.

In the end, employers are faced with a choice to either live with a poorly designed workstation or correct it. While neither choice may appear very attractive, the cost to live with it is likely to be much higher than you think.

injury cost (all claims) cost (lost hours) cost (with surgery)
lower back strain/sprain
shoulder strain/sprain
$51, 733
wrist sprain/strain
$48, 898
carpal tunnel syndrome

Reprinted by permission of State Compensation Insurance Fund



2007 hughes occupational consultants

updated 22-Feb-2007