American businesses pay $61.2 billion annually to cover the lost productivity costs associated with musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs). NIOSH rates MSDs as one of the most significant occupational safety and health problems in the U.S., and the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that sprain and strain injuries accounted for more than three-fourths of the MSD cases that resulted in days away from work in 2005.
"I do not expect to see much change in that number when data for 2006 and later are released," says ASSE Ergonomics Branch Chair Jeremy Chingo-Harris. "MSDs are a growing concern in all industries from office work to shipyards; from restaurants to hospitals; and are increasingly on OSHA's radar scope. OSHA has recently brought added attention to occupational ergonomics by proposing the addition of a new column on the OSHA 300 log for tracking work-related MSDs.
"Beyond OSHA, we look at effective ergonomics programs as a cost saving opportunity and the right thing to do for employees," Chingo-Harris adds. "Injuries cost companies and industries millions of dollars every year in direct and hidden costs. Companies need to start asking if they can afford the cost of not incorporating ergonomic practices into their operations."
A new article in the October ASSE journal Professional Safety identifies several best practices that can help demonstrate the economic value of ergonomics as a cost-saving, productivity-enhancing tool that contributes significantly to a company's bottom line.