Service Spotlight: Ergonomic consultations

Welcome to the Ask Approach Service Spotlight. Each month in 2020 we’ll take an in-depth look at a different service offered by Approach. For a quick look at all of the services available to Approach clients, download our Approach Services infographic.

Find all of our Service Spotlight posts at https://approachms.com/category/ask-approach/service-spotlight/

Preventing strains, sprains…and claims

Sprains and strains are a top 5 cause of workers’ comp claims in Washington state. Look deeper, and you’ll find that poor ergonomics is often the reason for the sprain or strain. Approach has a full-time ergonomic specialist on staff so we can help employers reduce the incidence of these claims. Our specialist also helps employers design jobs and workstations that can support an injured employee in returning to work, for temporary or permanent assignments.

Thumbnail of Ergonomic services flyer
Click to download our Ergonomic Services flyer

What is ergonomics?

Put simply, ergonomics is “fitting work to people rather than the other way around,” says Marie Vartanian, ergonomic specialist at Approach. She continues, “Ergonomics is the science of designing jobs or workplaces to fit better with what the human body can and cannot do.”

An example of this is standing workstations, which have become far more popular in the past five years. As more and more research showed that sitting for hours each day had serious health impacts, employers began to offer workstations that allow employees to sit or stand throughout their shift.

Poor ergonomics are a major cause of workers’ comp claims, because they can lead to either type of workers’ comp claim in Washington state:

  • Injury claim, such as a sudden strain from reaching just a bit too far for an item
  • Occupational disease, such as years of working at a poorly designed workstation, causing a condition to worsen over time.

We have already had ergonomic-related claims filed since work-from-home orders began in March.

Ergonomics and working from home

Of course, some of the best-designed workstations are sitting unused in empty offices, while so many of us work from home due to COVID-19. Home “offices,” which are usually dining tables or beds, most likely do not have any ergonomic features. It is no surprise that employers are hearing from employees about new aches and pains since working from home. We have already had ergonomic-related claims filed since work-from-home orders began in March.

Watch our Ergonomics of Working from Home webinar for free for additional tips.

What types of work benefit from ergonomics?

Any type of job can benefit from an ergonomic review. A plumber may not have a workstation, but there are ways of positioning the work materials and changing the tools that can reduce the risk of injury.

Many of claims can be traced to awkward work stations in “low-risk” industries, such as offices and retail stores. This makes sense in a way, because workers don’t get the same safety training in these jobs as they would in more hazardous industries such as manufacturing or construction. Workstation hazards, such as poor monitor or mouse placement, are often missed. Over time, the unseen effect of repetitive awkward movements can result in a sprain claim.

However, says Vartanian, “We are very fortunate in Washington state because the DOSH ergonomics team at L&I provides online tools that any employer can use to assess ergonomic risk and find potential solutions.” These free resources are a great starting point to learn more about incorporating ergonomics into your injury prevention program.

The ROI of Ergonomics

Studies have shown that ergonomics results in at least a 17% return for the company, with benefits such as greater productivity, less injuries, less pain complaints, less medical costs and improved health and wellbeing overall.

However, as we’ve seen during lockdown, the simplest ergonomic adjustments require little or no money at all. Watch this quick clip to see how a throw pillow and some books can improve the quality of your at-home workstation!

Ergonomic services from Approach

Ask your Retro Coordinator whenever you have questions or concerns about workplace ergonomics. Our ergonomic specialist can respond with a variety of materials and customized services, including:

  • Educational materials and templates
  • Workplace consultations, in person or by video call
  • Train-the-trainer materials, so you can on-board new employees
  • Return-to-work assistance, using ergonomics to meet doctor’s restrictions or vocational goals

Don’t wait for an expensive claim that could have been prevented. “Ergonomic fixes are often simple and inexpensive, which is motivation to check workstation fit on a regular basis, rather than waiting for a complaint or injury claim to be filed,” says Vartanian. Access this Approach service through your Retro Coordinator today!