When people think about workplace injuries, they normally think about things like construction, logging, or other types of manual labour. However, office workers face numerous ergonomic hazards in the workplace that can severely affect employee performance.
As a top-rated insurance broker, Group Enroll is here today to talk about ergonomic hazards in the workplace, common office hazards, and how you can protect your business and employees with the proper group insurance policies.
What Are Workplace Ergonomics?
Ergonomics is the science of designing jobs and tasks to fit the worker. More specifically, ergonomics concerns creating processes, workstations, and work equipment that fit workers’ mental and physical capacities.
Many office jobs involve repetitive motions or workplace conditions that can lead to long-term physical or mental problems. For example, an employee who looks at a dim screen and types while sitting with poor posture in a non-ergonomic workstation can cause eye strain, wrist injuries, and joint pain. Ergonomics as a discipline aims to reduce these types of risk factors in the work environment to improve productivity and protect employees’ health.
Types of Ergonomic Hazards
Health agencies categorize ergonomic hazards depending on the kinds of injuries they are likely to cause. Companies have a vested interest in reducing ergonomic risks as they can result in lost productivity and disability insurance claims. Below are three of the most common kinds of ergonomic risks and injuries in the workplace.
Musculoskeletal Disorder Hazards
The majority of ergonomic risks can result in musculoskeletal disorders, including but not limited to:
- Muscle strains
- Pinched nerves
- Slipped spinal discs
- Torn ligaments
- Swollen bursa
- Joint pain
- Torn tendons
Other terms for musculoskeletal disorders include cumulative trauma disorder or repetitive strain injury (RSI). One of the key features of these kinds of workplace injuries is that they can take months or even years to manifest symptoms. Common workplace conditions that lead to repetitive motion injuries include:
- Forced posture (for example, a neck injury from viewing monitors)
- Contact stress (for example, carpal tunnel syndrome from typing)
- Excessively high/low temperatures
- Arm vibrations
- Body vibrations
- Workplace organization
For the purposes of workplace safety law, musculoskeletal disorders typically do not include acute injuries that are the direct result of singular events, such as impacts, vehicle collisions, or falls.
Visibility is another ergonomic factor that can contribute to workplace injury. Work environments with poor visibility can increase the risk of collision with mobile equipment or vehicles. For example, crowded or poorly designed work environments can obstruct vision in high-traffic areas. Other factors that can impede visibility and increase the risk of collisions include:
- Low lighting conditions
- Blocked line of sight due to equipment or environment
- Lack of high-visibility clothing
- Colours do not contrast enough
Physical obstruction is not the only thing that can impede visibility in the workplace. Cognitive overload from excessive task management can reduce employee attentiveness, increasing the risk of collision accidents.
Falls are another type of injury that can result from poor workplace ergonomics. For example, warehouse workers might be at higher risk of falling off ladders and other supports depending on support ergonomics. Factors that can influence the risk of falling include:
- Worker body position
- Assumed posture
- Support points of contact (e.g., unlevel ground, slippery surfaces, etc.)
- Direction of applied force
- Support materials
How Do Ergonomic Hazards Affect Workplace Performance?
Ergonomic hazards increase the risks of injury in the workplace and severely impede employee productivity. Injuries from non-ergonomic workplace conditions can disrupt daily employee tasks and drastically reduce performance. In fact, workplace injury from poor ergonomics costs businesses over $60 billion per year in lost productivity.
Conversely, proper ergonomic design can significantly increase employee productivity. According to a review from the Washington State Department of Labor and Industries, implementing ergonomic solutions in the workplace can increase worker productivity by up to 25% and significantly reduce absentee rates.
Additionally, ergonomic solutions can increase self-reported employee well-being and work satisfaction. Keeping workers in physically and mentally comfortable environments through smart ergonomics benefits businesses in virtually all domains.
Workplace Ergonomic Assessment
Canadian law requires employers to maintain proper ergonomic standards in the workplace. In fact, on the Canada.ca website, it specifically states that employers must comply under a Federal Jurisdiction to provide safe and ergonomic work stations for every employee. Employers can complete a personalized ergonomic self-assessment to identify and eliminate workplace hazards.
The typical ergonomic self-assessment considers employee workstations and conditions and provides guidelines to reduce the risk of injury. Employees can also request a personalized assessment from the Public Service Commission of Canada (PSC) to assess their employer.
Depending on the assessment results, employers must acquire necessary items or equipment to reduce ergonomic risks, such as proper keyboards, chairs, floor mats, or desks. The PSC also offers an Ergo-Coach program to train employers on ergonomic best practices in the workplace.
Ergonomic self-assessment has become increasingly important in a world where employees spend significant periods on laptops, computers, tablets, and smartphones. This shift to digital ubiquity in the workplace carries unique occupational health challenges. Businesses can rise to these challenges by completing ergonom ic self-assessments for their workspaces.
Learn how to better manage your employees, remote or in-office, with our article.
Employment Insurance for Injuries Ergonomic Hazards
Ideally, companies should arrange workplaces to minimize ergonomic risks and maximize productivity. However, accidents can still happen, and injuries from poor ergonomics can decrease worker productivity, costing businesses money.
Group Enroll helps businesses find the right employment insurance products by comparing quotes from Canadian insurance companies. Our partner insurance providers offer a wide range of coverage for businesses, including:
- Extended health care
- Dental insurance
- Disability insurance
- Life insurance
- Health Care Spending Account (HCSA)
- And more
Group benefits insurance can cover the costs of workers who sustain ergonomic injuries that impede their ability to work. Employment insurance packages can also provide coverage for maternity benefits, sick leave, and compassionate care benefits. Group Enroll makes it easy to find the most competitive policies that fit your needs and budget.
If you would like to learn about insurance products for ergonomic hazards in the workplace, contact Group Enroll online at [email protected] or fill out our quote form today! You can also contact our physical address at 10 Great Gulf Drive, Unit 5, Vaughan, ON, L4K 5W1.