How Ergonomics in the Office can Help Improve Employee Health

How Ergonomics in the Workplace can Improve Your Employees HealthDesk jobs can be very demanding on our bodies. This is because we’re not designed to stay in the same position all day. High blood pressure, bad cholesterol and obesity have all been linked to jobs that require workers to sit still for long hours at a time. So how can your business ensure the health and safety of your employees who are working desk jobs?

Ergonomics, defined as “the study of work,” is the science of designing the job to fit the worker rather than the other way around. It looks at how an employee’s workstation and tools can be adapted to help reduce physical stress on the body and eliminate work-related musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs), states the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).

MSDs are injuries or pains that affect muscles, nerves, blood vessels, ligaments and tendons. Our arms, hands, fingers, neck, back, wrists, legs and shoulders are all parts of our bodies that can be affected by MSDs as a result of excessive repetitive movements, awkward or unsupported positions, and static postures. Common injuries include carpal tunnel syndrome, tendonitis, sciatica, herniated discs and back pain. According to OSHA, 34% of all lost-workday injuries and illnesses are due to MSDs.

Many solutions to ergonomic problems are easy and inexpensive to implement, compared to steep injury costs. Each year, workers’ compensation costs due to MSDs range anywhere from $15 billion to $20 billion, with $1 out of every $3 of comp costs accounting for MSDs, according to OSHA. The easiest way to improve employee health is to promote changes in everyday work habits, such as making sure to alter positions throughout the day, looking away from screens periodically, and mastering keyboard shortcuts to eliminate use of the mouse, to name a few.

Office Chairs & Standing Desks

Other ergonomic practices include investing in the right equipment. However, it’s important to remember not to get caught up in the latest fads, exercise balls being one of them. There is little research to support the use of exercise balls as a substitute for an office chair, and without proper back support, it can actually lead to your back muscles contracting. Rather than buying an exercise ball, Travelers states that you should look for an office chair that has the following features:

  • A pneumatic height adjustment
  • Height-adjustable lumbar support
  • A seat back that can be locked in an upright position or inclines up to 110 degrees
  • Adjustable padded armrests with rounded edges
  • An adjustable seat pan
  • A five-caster base with appropriate casters for the flooring surface

Standing desks are another popular trend in the office. If you’re thinking of investing in one, it’s important to make sure that it can be adjusted to your height whether you are seated or standing. Standing desk users should also wear appropriate footwear for prolonged standing and remember to sit down or walk around the office every once in awhile. Employees using a standing desk should also master a neutral stance, which Travelers defines as the following:

  • The working area should be at elbow height
  • The employee’s shoulders should be relaxed with their arms near the side
  • Wrists and head should be straight
  • Weight should be balanced

For more information or questions on ergonomics in the workplace, contact the McGrath Insurance Agency, a division of Starkweather & Shepley, at 508-347-6850 or marketing@mcgrathinsurance.com.

*This article is written for informational purposes only and should not be construed as providing legal advice.