Preventing Workplace Injuries and the Cost of Ignoring Ergonomics

Written By: DJ Howard

Ergonomic workstations

OK, this chair might be a bit much, but the importance of workplace ergonomics shouldn’t be ignored.

Some gawk at the Ergonomic Model #297648 super adjustable work station with full air ride height adjustment, tilting table top, bubble wrapped hand grips, ABEC 9000 free spinning bearings, and automatic work piece height adjustment, but the numbers don’t lie. The price for avoiding ergonomic injuries is quickly justified by a single workplace injury. All kidding aside, workplace injuries are no joking manner, and proper ergonomic planning is important for most every position within every company.

According to the United States Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics, the rate of nonfatal occupational injury and illness cases requiring days away from work to recuperate was 117 cases per 10,000 full-time employees. Each of the 1,181,000 injury cases had a median time away from work of 8 days. Eight days that the company was paying that employee while they were unable to produce for the company.

More specifically we will look at ergonomic injuries. Lawyers refer to ergonomic injuries as Musculoskeletal Disorders, which I assume makes the insurance companies feel better about writing a big check. Musculoskeletal Disorder is loosely defined by Wikipedia with the following statement, “Musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) can affect the body’s muscles, joints, tendons, ligaments and nerves. Most work-related MSDs develop over time and are caused either by the work itself or by the employees’ working environment.”

Musculoskeletal disorder (MSD) cases account for one third of all injury and illness cases, around 390,000 annually. The median time away from work is higher for MSD cases at 11 days per injury. Of the work-related MSD cases 42% were back injuries, followed by shoulder injuries accounting for 13%. If you have ever thrown your back out, you will completely understand the seriousness of an MSD injury.


  1. Stretching: One of the most under-utilized, completely free preventative actions for reducing worker injuries. A poster is not enough! Make stretching a part of the routine. Use the stretching time as a morning meeting or a team building time. I recently witnessed a stretching meeting at the beginning of a 2nd shift at a facilities I was visiting. The extremely effective manager was leading the stretch while telling his daily joke to the employees. It was great. The employees were smiling and laughing, they had each completed their daily stretches and were ready for an injury free work day.
  2. Anti-Fatigue Mats: Not a free solution like above, but very under-utilized. There is a big push in the material handling industry for goods-to-man systems, reducing the amount of unproductive walking an employee does. This makes Anti-Fatigue mats even more affordable. Standing or walking for an entire shift is a difficult task even without bending, lifting, and squatting. Mats are a simple solution to an age old problem, your employees will thank you for it.
  3. Working Height Adjustments: The goal here is keeping operators working in their “Green Zone”. Tables should be adjusted to allow operators to handle objects near their body without bending or reaching. Chairs should be adjustable to allow feet to be flat on the floor and knees at the same height as the hips. Keep frequently used objects close to the green zone, and avoid any heavy lifting from floor level or over-head.
  4. Lighting: Good lighting prevents strains on the eyes and long term vision issues. Add additional lights to work areas to brighten the space. If possible paint the work area bright white to reflect the available light. Natural light from windows and sky-lights provide additional light with no operating expense.
  5. Portable Work Stations: Having the ability to change the workspace around as the tasks change is an important feature for work stations that see frequent change. Tables can be fit with casters to allow movement for different product handling. As a rule-of-thumb larger casters typically require less effort to move.
DJ joined Bastian Solutions in 2012 as a Field Applications Engineer in the St. Louis area. Prior to joining the Bastian team, DJ studied engineering at the University of Missouri at Rolla while working full time as a small business owner. He had worked in the controls group of a factory automation company and in research and development at an automotive manufacturer prior to starting with Bastian. DJ is experienced in system design, installation supervision, troubleshooting, and project management.

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1 comment

  1. Larry says:

    Very nice blog post. I certainly love this website. Continue the good


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