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worker injuries

Feb 27, 2009

Your Turn to Talk: Where Do You Stand on Ergonomic Debate?

We’ve spent some time this week talking about the changing climate in Washington with regard to ergonomics and ergonomic legislation. On the campaign trail, President Obama repeatedly promised workers a healthier, safer workplace, saying he would use the full weight of his office to attack the problem of musculoskeletal injuries. Confirmation this week Hilda Solis as Obama’s new Labor secretary is expected to get the ball rolling.

Despite the fact that ergonomic systems and equipment have been repeatedly proven to significantly reduce worker injury and the exorbitant medical, insurance, disability and lost man-hour costs associated with musculoskeletal injuries, recent news reports give the impression that business owners fear the financial burden of government-regulated ergonomics. Admittedly, as one of the nation’s premier manufacturers of ergonomically-designed electric carts and motorized cart pushers, DJ Products is a bit biased on the subject. However, our considerable experience with customers from large manufacturers to small business owners indicates that rather than fearing ergonomics, savvy businessmen are embracing it, not only to protect the health and safety of their employees, but to streamline production and reduce production costs. In our experience, most purchasers of our ergonomic carts, tugs and movers recoup their investment within the first year, noting savings in medical and production costs.

In news reports of ergonomic panic, the leadership of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce appears to be fanning the flames of dissent. The chamber cites cost and potential for abuse (i.e., paying the cost of worker injuries suffered off the job) as its two main reasons for opposition. There are always some people who will try to abuse the system, but we don’t imagine that abuse will be any greater with ergonomic rules than without them. If potential abuse were the deciding factor, there wouldn’t be any government programs, so this argument is negligible.

The issue of cost, particularly in the current economy, is, of course, a consideration. However, throughout industrial history, new innovations have required some re-tooling to reap greater profit. With ergonomics, considerable benefits can be realized from minor changes: a change in position, routine or tool placement. Ergonomic equipment can be introduced gradually, a sector at a time, allowing businesses to realize immediate gains without tremendous financial outlay.

The chamber argues that regulation is unnecessary because businessmen recognize the value of ergonomics and are implementing programs without government intervention. If that’s true, then what’s the harm in regulation? The fact is that forward-thinking businessmen do recognize the value of ergonomics and they are integrating ergonomics into their operations. But many are not and their workers suffer so government acts for the common good.

But enough from us, we want to hear from you on this issue. Where do you stand on the ergonomic debate? Let us know and we’ll share your thoughts with our readers.

Dec 29, 2008

Ergonomics Increase Workplace Efficiency

Manufacturers are shutting factories and slashing jobs in an effort to stop the hemorrhaging from the global economic recession. A recession “always hits manufacturing first and hardest,” said Hank Cox, spokesman for the 10,000 member National Association of Manufacturers. “We’re going into a valley” that looks like it’s going to be “long and deep.”

Economic experts compare this recession to the 2000-2003 slowdown during which manufacturing lost 3 million jobs and never really got them back. Greater initial job loss is expected this time around, but there is hope that as the economy improves a greater number of jobs will be reinstated and that the net job loss will be less than in 2003. Until things turn around, though, everyone will have to work a little harder to pick up the slack.

Increasing the efficiency of your workforce can help business owners trim operating costs. Implementing personnel programs to decrease absenteeism has shown good results but doesn’t address the root cause of the problem. Poor working conditions that place unnatural strain on workers’ bodies take both a physical and mental toll on your workforce. Implementing an ergonomic program in your workplace can not only boost employee morale but eliminate costly musculoskeletal injuries and their associated costs.

Ergonomically-designed powered carts and movers relieve workers of the physical strain and discomfort caused by manual performance of pushing, pulling and lifting tasks. Making an investment in your employees’ health and safety improves morale. And where morale is high, worker efficiency has been proven to increase. But these are the indirect benefits of implementing an ergonomics program in your workplace. Direct benefits include an immediate and permanent decrease in expensive musculoskeletal injuries — particularly back injuries — and the high medical, insurance, disability and workers’ compensation costs they entail.

Workplace injury and illness cost U.S. businesses $171 billion a year. Approximately 13.2 million workers every year are injured in the workplace, resulting in $60 billion in workers’ compensation claims annually. According to OSHA estimates, back injuries account for 1 in 5 disabling injuries. Back injuries alone cost American businesses more than $12 million in lost workdays and $1 billion in compensation costs each year. The lost workday cost of a single back injury is estimated at $26,000.

Implementing an ergonomic program in your workplace can dramatically and immediately impact worker efficiency and your bottom line. Most businesses recoup their investment in ergonomic equipment within the first year. For more information on how ergonomic carts and movers can improve efficiency in your workplace, contact the knowledgeable experts at DJ Products today.