By Gene Kay, MS, CPE
Every day millions of workers sit at their desks and computer workstations for hours on end, unaware of the toll it’s taking on their bodies. In many offices, improper monitor positions and rigid sitting postures are causing employees back pain, neck pain, eye strain, and other Musculoskeletal Disorders (MSDs). Furthermore, sedentary behaviors and static postures can even result in metabolic syndrome, a cluster of conditions — including increased blood pressure, high blood sugar, excess body fat around the waist, and abnormal cholesterol or triglyceride levels — that occur together to increase the risk of heart disease, stroke, and diabetes.
These injuries not only come at a high cost to employee wellbeing, but can also impact a company’s bottom line. OSHA estimates that each year the typical Fortune 1000 company pays $1.3 million for every 1,000 employees due to ergonomic injuries. Other estimates by the National Council on Compensation Insurance suggest the true cost of just one ergonomics-related injury to companies to be around $60,000 to $82,000 per case.
Fortunately, there are proven strategies that can alleviate most of the stresses and costs related to poor ergonomics. Office ergonomics assessment and training involves fitting the job to the employee and helping employees identify and adopt safe practices.
An Effective Office Ergonomics Program
Studies have shown significant gains in productivity and employee job satisfaction with the introduction of an effective office ergonomics program. The Washington State Department of Labor & Industries and the Puget Sound Human Factors and Ergonomics Society analyzed 250 such studies and discovered that, on average, introduction of an office ergonomics program lowered workplace MSDs by 61 percent.
Unfortunately, traditional ergonomics training relies on live or one-on-one coaching and is often expensive and unreliable. And for companies with a large staff or multiple locations, the costs and logistic headaches grow exponentially. Luckily, advancements in technology and the emergence of online office ergonomics training tools are making it easier for employers to provide more employees with personalized attention.
Cloud-based ergonomics training courses allow companies to train thousands of employees at the same time for less than it costs to support traditional live coaching programs at a single location. Additionally, these web-based programs include modular components that help employees fit the training into their own schedules when time allows and from the comfort of their desks.
One of the programs currently available, the VelocityEHS Ergonomics Solution, provides expert assessment to make the training are more customized to the individual employee need. The affordable and quick-to-implement solution also monitors progress, provides remote assistance, and tracks and reports on ergonomic processes from the VelocityEHS single-point EHS management platform.
Here are some quick and simple tips to help employees avoid fatigue and improve posture at their desks:
- The most common cause of neck and upper back discomfort is from bending neck up or down depending on the computer monitor position. Keep the top of the screen no higher than eye-level or lower to reduce neck and eye strain.
- People typical tense up their hands when typing at a keyboard or using the mouse. Remember to relax hands by taking them off the keyboard and mouse while waiting for a page to load.
- Small, repetitive movements can cause strain on the hand and wrist. When typing at the keyboard, move the whole hand to reach the keys and then return to the home row. Similarly, move the whole hand when using the mouse instead of just swiveling with the wrist.
- The typical person sits for 15 hours a day. Lean back in your chair every few minutes, wiggle your legs under your desk, and get up and take a walk – anything that gets you moving more during the day.
- Bending and twisting when looking between the computer screen and down to a document resting on the desk causes neck and upper-back strain. Instead, place the paper on a document reader and position it directly below the screen to reduce this movement.
Poor posture, incorrect computer monitor positioning, and prolonged seating can all cause damage to the body. Without the proper training, this routine behavior puts added stress that not only causes worker discomfort, but can cost a company thousands of dollars in worker compensation. Any office with employees that work primarily at desk workstations would be wise to look into office ergonomics solutions to identify and correct any issues before they get worse. And companies looking for a smart and cost-effective solution should seriously consider a good ergonomics software solution.
For more than 20 years, Gene Kay, MS, CPE, has helped organizations achieve their optimum level of functioning while improving comfort, safety, wellbeing and the bottom-line through his unique approach to enterprise office ergonomics programs. As managing partner and lead developer of ErgoAdvocate, Kay pioneered the use of on-line resources to help office workers suffering with pain or injury. In his current role as the Director of Ergonomics at VelocityEHS, Kay brings his wealth of knowledge and deep understanding of ergonomics to a wider customer base through the company’s single-point EHS management platform approach to controlling risk and managing compliance.