Ergonomics is the science and engineering concerned with designing machines and their controls to fit the human body rather than forcing humans into uncomfortable or unsafe positions. Although the ergonomic design has become commonplace in office environments, it was once considered too expensive, time-consuming and unnecessary. But today, ergonomic principles are being applied to manufacturing plants, warehouses and even retail stores. If you want to save money, improve productivity, and reduce injuries, ergonomics should be at the top of your mind.
Ergonomics became widely accepted after World War II because it prevents repetitive stress injuries, such as carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS). This condition affects millions of Americans every year and is caused when nerve signals from the wrist get misdirected due to poor posture, awkward hand movements, and prolonged computer usage. A study conducted in 2007 found that CTS costs employers $3.5 million per day. In addition, back pain also costs U.S. businesses over $50 billion annually. With the advent of modern technology and an emphasis on worker safety, it’s now easier to incorporate ergonomic principles into manufacturing operations.
Fewer Work-related Musculoskeletal Disorders
The most prevalent and costliest injuries manufacturing workers experience are soft tissue sprains and strains, commonly called work-related musculoskeletal disorders (WMSDs). They occur because of years of accumulated stress on muscles, tendons, ligaments, and nerves. Common risk factors include repetitive motions, awkward posture, forceful hand exertion, and heavy manual material handling.
According to Washington State workers’ compensation claims, manufacturing ranks third (out of six) compared to other industries in its compensable claims rate of work-related musculoskeletal disorders (WMSD) injuries. Most injuries can be prevented if proper ergonomic engineering techniques are used to reduce risks and discomfort during job performance. Implementing ergonomics solutions has resulted in a 59% decrease in WMSD.
Productivity is a continuous priority for every business and manufacturing is no different. There are multiple solutions manufacturers consider, from lean manufacturing processes to work area optimization, when trying to optimize efficiency. Manufacturing should also examine enhancing the comfortability and ease of job tasks.
Ergonomics evaluations, program development and team ergonomics training and mentoring can increase the rate at which your company creates completed products. Studies have shown that employees who perceive their environment to be more comfortable are 25% more productive than uncomfortable employees
With widespread trouble in finding talented workers, it’s become more important than ever to be able to retain the experienced workers your organization currently employs. In 2021, the average turnover rate in the manufacturing industry was 39.9%, meaning nearly 4 out of 10 manufacturing workers left their job in 2021.
According to the Center for Management and Organization Effectiveness, some main reasons for the high manufacturing turnover rate are the lack of attention paid to issues and burnout due to physical exhaustion and injury. Investing in your workforce by implementing ergonomics-based solutions is reported to lower turnover by 48%.
Are you interested in learning more about the ergonomic solutions ready to assist your organization?
Join us on Tuesday, November 15, from 11 a.m. – noon for the “Business Impact of Ergonomics” webinar. Julia Abate, CPE, the executive director for The Ergonomics Center at N.C. State University will speak about how proper ergonomics training can save thousands of workers and businesses annually.