If you’ve been following the DORN blog, you know that June is National Safety Month, when enterprises and their safety professionals work to strengthen their commitment to nurturing an injury-free workplace where wellness is a priority. Last week, we tackled mental health issues in the workplace and how they’ve grown worse due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This week, we’re focusing on ergonomics: the study of adapting a workplace and necessary tools to the needs of the human body.
Does your company need guidance through the reopening phase? Download DORN’s free eBook on return-to-work planning after COVID-19.
“Ergonomics considers the match between the person, the equipment they use, the process, and the work environment.” –Denise Pontbriand, DORN Senior Ergonomic Specialist
The Growing Importance of Ergonomics
Recently, DORN asked safety professionals to tell us about their plans for return-to-work after shutting down during the pandemic. We found that the vast majority—up to 75%—of companies and organizations have developed a plan for mitigating illness and injury risks during the process of ramping up or reopening business. For most, the most concerning issues were what you’d expect following a major viral outbreak: preventative measures and the possibility of a second wave of COVID-19 cases. However, about 1 in 5 respondents reported that they’re actually more worried about increasing injury risks than the coronavirus, revealing the multifaceted nature of the return-to-work process in a situation like this.
As workers return to job sites—especially offices, warehouses, and factories—injury risks are likely to spike as a result of several contributing factors. First, in many cases, employers will have at least a portion of employees who have been out of work for up to 6-8 weeks. This means that their bodies have fallen out of their work routines and may not be prepared for the demands of the job upon returning. With decreased strength, flexibility, and conditioning, workers’ bodies will be vulnerable to overexertion injuries, musculoskeletal disorders, and repetitive strain injuries. Other employees who have been working without access to onsite resources such as an athletic trainer or specialist may have fallen out of work shape. Restarting proper body mechanics training will help mitigate the most common ergonomic injuries.
To curb other risk factors, organizations of all types are looking to ergonomics. With a sharp rise in injury risks and rates almost certain to occur as business resumes across the country, safety managers need tools that can be adapted to unprecedented situations and new challenges. As workers return, it’s essential to provide workstations and tools that support joint and soft tissue health even as employees readjust to the demands of the job. New solutions have empowered safety managers to conduct ergonomic assessments virtually to help employees based at home. On-site safety risks can be managed with the support of ergonomic specialists who conduct assessments at the individual, department, or site level, offering detailed reporting of risk factors and problem areas that can be corrected with ergonomic intervention. Technology can provide a wealth of ergonomic data to help safety managers monitor their workforces, thanks to wearable devices that turn muscle output data into detailed risk profiles.
“The employees are part of the solution. When employees take ownership of their work, they are eager and open to making changes. As an ergonomist, I find the employee’s input invaluable.” –Denise Pontbriand
With safety managers preparing to face a wave of new injury risks, DORN has compiled resources with information drawn from over 20 years of service in helping employers mitigate injuries and the associated costs.
Help your employees stay safe with virtual ergonomic assessments that target injury risk both at home and in the office. Click here.
Read our tips for making sure your home workspace is ergonomically safe, including factors like monitor positioning and desk height. Click here.
Our globally recognized desktop ergonomics software helps employees monitor their posture and motions, reinforcing ergonomic best practices without taking workers away from their tasks. Click here.
Learn how sensors embedded in work clothing can measure exertion levels and help inform ergonomic improvements in the workplace. Click here.
Read how three employers in different industries leveraged ergonomic concepts and interventions to reduce injury risks and cut the associated costs. Click here.
As you bring workers back on-site, it may be helpful to incorporate elements of work hardening programs into your plan, helping employees rebuild the strength they need for work. Click here.
Read the latest stories and research on the benefits of ergonomics in the workplace. Click here.