For employers struggling to control spiraling workers’ compensation and medical costs, anything that can prevent workplace injuries from happening in the first place is welcome news. Keeping those costs down takes a multi-pronged approach, and there are numerous tools available to help you do that.
But how many employers think of ergonomics as a workers’ compensation cost cutting tool?
While ergonomics in the workplace is nothing new, the most common applications have been in office environments and largely focused on things such as chair adjustments and placement of computer monitors and mice.
But really, ergonomics is something we all use every day. Think about what you do every time you get into your vehicle before you drive off. You make sure your seat, mirrors, and steering wheel are adjusted just right. All of those little things actually cut down on accidents due to driver error, they save lives, and they enable you to drive longer distances by minimizing discomfort and fatigue.
It’s the same principle in workplace ergonomics – it’s all about increasing productivity and decreasing discomfort, fatigue, and injuries. How important is it? Consider this…
Poor ergonomics and the snowball effect
Something as simple as an office chair could potentially cost your company thousands of dollars. An employee who isn’t provided an ergonomic chair may need to slouch forward to reach his workstation or lean back. Over time, this activity places pressure on areas of the spine and can lead to conditions such as degenerative disc disease. Once the pressure builds up, the employee may start to focus more on his pain instead of work, leading to lost productivity. If the employee is in pain, he’s going to need medical care and more time off work. And the costs continue to add up.
Ergonomics can be a valuable tool in the battle to keep workers’ comp costs down, in more ways than one:
- As an everyday safety and health consideration. Every employer should have their workplace and employees’ work sites and daily work habits evaluated for ergonomic considerations and identify areas for improvement. Consider measuring performance, revenue, and productivity before and after making any changes. Offer a workshop with a qualified health and wellness coach to educate your workers about the importance of ergonomics.
- As a return-to-work tool. Many employers assume that if an injured worker has any type of restriction, it unequivocally precludes the worker from performing his or her regular job, and they reflexively say “no” to the employee returning to work until he or she is at full capacity. But a brief assessment by someone with ergonomic expertise could identify a no-cost or low-cost accommodation that would allow the injured worker to be productive at work while recovering. That can be a major cost saver.
- As an accommodation to an aging workforce. As long-term employees age, their body composition changes due to weight gain, muscle loss, fatigue, and other factors. Many older workers could benefit from ergonomic modifications in their work environments, and being attentive to those needs can reduce injuries and medical expenses.
No matter what workers’ comp cost cutting tools you have in your arsenal, don’t overlook the simple power of ergonomics. It’s one of the most cost effective ways to help your employees increase productivity and reduce fatigue and injuries. And that means fewer workers’ compensation claims and lower costs. It may not even cost you anything to have your workplace assessed, since many insurance carriers will be glad to do so at no cost.
Would you like more ideas about controlling the cost of California workers’ compensation insurance claims? Republic Capital can help. Download our free report, or contact us for a complimentary assessment today.