Seven Impacts of Ergonomics

Money is tight in our industry. Businesses are working to perform the job faster and more competitive to win bids and grow revenue. May is National Electrical Safety Month — a good time to direct attention to the most important asset in your company, the people. Safety discussions should include ergonomics and the seven ways that ergonomics may impact your staff every day.
 
INJURY
The primary purpose of ergonomics is to decrease work-related injuries. With the rising cost of healthcare, the fees associated with injuries are mounting. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that the average cost of a repetitive stress injury in the construction industry is just over $100,000 (US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health, 2007). To combat expensive injuries, ergonomics alters the physical demands placed upon workers matched to their abilities. An electrician performing physical work exceeding their body's capacity is at risk of injury. To reduce risk of injury, a change to their work environment or the tools they use is recommended. A professional's ability to perform a task will depend on many things: 
 
  • Strength
  • Height
  • Flexibility
  • Fatigue from previous tasks
  • Lingering muscle strain
  • Previous injury

When workers push beyond their limits they damage their muscles, tendons, and ligaments. The strain placed on their body may not result in long-term damage if ample rest time is provided, but many times the job comes first, and adequate rest and recovery is not achieved. To safeguard motivated workers from overexertion, perform routine checks of job tasks. 

DISABILITY
Ergonomics specifically addresses the chronic and cumulative nature of musculoskeletal disorders (MSD). MSD injuries can lead to strain and damage the body, including damage to joints and cartilage that typically require surgery to repair. This is especially problematic for load bearing joints like the back, knees,and hips, because they are regularly under stress over the course of a lifetime.
 
Injuries, especially MSD injuries, tend to be costly. Costs for both the injured individual and their company, particularly in the form of recovery time and the physical therapy needed to rehab an employee. Many injuries become chronic or reoccur because people attempt to return to work too quickly.
 
As an electrician ages and healing slows, a worker may lose the ability to cope with the strain of their day-today job requirements; traditionally, it is during this period that chronic injuries caused by years of work and strain become apparent. These painful and sometimes debilitating injuries can lead to decreased ability to perform daily activities or forced retirement. 
 
What could a decrease in ability look like? A worker might lose the ability to lift their hands overhead. A doctor may place weight restrictions on what they can carry. Injuries from work can impact your life outside of work, too. Chronic injuries can limit sports with friends; playing catch with children or grandchildren; and other active hobbies, such as golf, fishing, hunting, or even working on a car. Injuries can also limit travel experiences, as the person might be unable to sit in a car or on a plane for long periods of time. A decrease in physical ability can reduce the ability to accomplish retirement goals. 
 
TIME OFF WORK
Taking the time to rest is the most common treatment to heal damaged muscles. While muscles heal relatively quickly, other injuries, such as tendons and ligaments, require longer healing times. According to the BLS, sprains, strains, and tears take a median value of ten days to heal, while tendonitis and carpal