As Congress debates passage of a health care reform bill, the potential cost of meeting new health care requirements is causing some consternation in the business community. Small business owners in particular are concerned that new federal income surtaxes may take too big a chomp out of profitability. Some are even worried that too big a health insurance bite could force them out of business. Among other things, the current plan could cost small businesses 5.4% in new health care taxes and levy payroll taxes of as much as 8% on other businesses. Of course, who knows what the final bill will actually look like, but taking proactive measures would seem to be a wise move.

Implementing an ergonomic plan now and switching to ergonomically designed material handling equipment is a proven way to lower workplace injury rates and significantly decrease the need for medical services. Lower risks mean lower insurance costs. The day is coming when businesses that use ergonomics may enjoy special discounts like homeowners now receive for installing security systems and smoke detectors. It’s something business owners might want to address with their insurers.

Back injuries account for more workers’ compensation claims than any other workplace injury. They are just one of a class of injuries termed musculoskeletal disorders that involve injury to the body’s connective tissues. These injuries to muscles, nerves, tendons, joints, cartilage or spinal discs account for no less than one-third of U.S. workplace injuries, according to the U.S.¬†Bureau of Labor Statistics. The cost of a musculoskeletal injury goes beyond immediate medical care. Often extensive — and expensive — physical therapy or other post-injury care is required. On average, workers miss more work days for musculoskeletal injuries than for any other type of workplace injury. Once workers return to the job, the incidence of reinjury is high and many will be unable to fulfill their originally assigned¬†duties. Particularly if reinjury occurs, there is a high risk of permanent disability.

Part 2 on Monday