January 2017 Newsletter:

A Case Study: Why Invest in Ergonomics?


Employers have a duty to provide their workers with a safe and healthy work environment to protect against injury and disability. Meeting this requirement with respect to ergonomic injuries may be seen as an expensive undertaking and one that many employers think of only as an expense. However, a strong ergonomics program within the workplace should provide a positive return on investment that many companies and employers actually fail to see.

Cost of a Workplace Injury

A workplace injury can cost a company quite extensively, especially when considering not only the direct costs, but also the associated indirect costs. Often, the direct costs to an employer are relatively self-explanatory; employee’s lost wages and expenses for employee medical treatment and care (e.g. x-rays, crutches, etc.) constitute the majority. But when factoring in the indirect costs, including: overtime costs to maintain production, hiring and training of replacement employees, accident investigation/reporting, and production delays, to name a few, the cost to the employer can multiply quickly.

Whether doing so from a reactive (i.e. due to an injury) or a proactive perspective, implementing ergonomic change can have a significant impact on both tangible and intangible factors.

A Case Study: Return on Investment

Recently, PROergonomics had the opportunity to work with an Ontario manufacturer to combat ergonomic issues within their office environment. Overall, 22 workstations were assessed against ergonomic guidelines, of which the primary issues identified were working above or below their seated elbow height (i.e. working height) and poor chair fit and adjustability. The discomfort reported amongst staff members varied to include:

  1. Neck/upper back discomfort
  2. Wrist discomfort
  3. Lower back discomfort
  4. Other discomforts (e.g. knees)

Overall, this company spent approximately $17,500 (~$800/employee) on this project, including ergonomic assessment fees and recommended equipment for all employees. At quick glance, many companies may look at a $17,500 expense in the office as far too much. This begs the question ...

The best way to determine whether such an investment in ergonomics is truly worth the up-front expense, we have to consider the cost of a workplace injury to an employer. In 2011, the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB) reported a ‘high-impact claim’ such as a lower back injury can cost a company anywhere from $33,000 to $52,000 (WSIB Ontario, 2011). Optimistically, let’s say the first lower back claim filed cost this company the minimum of $33,000.

Would it not make more sense to have invested the $17,500 up front to prevent paying a small fortune once that claim is filed? The cost of the assessments and equipment in ONE prevented injury would have more than paid for itself!

Finally, it’s important to keep in mind that in addition to these savings, a clean health and safety record for this company can help to boost workplace morale and create a positive safety culture. So, not only are there immediate advantages to such a financial commitment (as initially alarming as it may be), but so too are there much longer lasting benefits to both the employees and employer.

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