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Four Ergonomic Tips to Keep Employees and Workers' Comp Budgets Healthy

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Jessica Miller-Merrell

Providing an impressive benefit package to employees is expensive and sometimes isn’t in fact what sets your organization apart from the rest. Most of us won’t argue that benefits aren't worth the cost, but as any employer or HR professional can tell you, the expense is huge. In addition to the obvious benefit costs employees see, such as healthcare and retirement contributions, there’s a major benefit lurking in the dark going unnoticed by employees: workers’ compensation insurance.

For most employees, workers’ compensation coverage isn’t even a blip on the radar when considering a benefit package. It’s only a consideration when an employee is injured on the job. However, it’s often one of the largest benefit expenses a business incurs. Fortunately, this is one area in which the goal of cutting costs really is a good thing for employees; the fewer claims you have, the lower your premiums will be and the healthier workforce you’ll have at the office.

If you’re working in an office and clerical setting, you probably won’t see many newsworthy claims like a more physical job would, such as those working in the construction industry. (And if you do have the same type of claims as employers like that, we need to talk about proper working conditions.) However, you will see back and neck pain, carpal tunnel and maybe even eye problems. The good news is, there are easy fixes for most of these issues. Try these four ergonomic tips to save your employees from aches and pains and your budget from feeling workers' compensation insurance cost pains as well.

1.Train front line managers and professionals to perform ergonomic evaluations
Ergonomic evaluations include looking at the way an employee sits, types, moves around their workspace and more. A simple evaluation can reveal areas of improvement that can make a big difference. By training someone to perform these evaluations in-house, you’ll save on hiring a consultant and will always have someone available. If it’s not feasible to do this, find an ergonomic consultant in your area. While the latter will be a bit more expensive, they’re both worth the cost considering that an average workers’ comp claim can last decades and cost tens of thousands of dollars.

2. Make it simple for employees to request assistance
Whether an employee would like an ergonomic evaluation or they know they need a specific piece of equipment, don’t make them jump through hoops and walk on hot coals to make it happen. Encourage them to be proactive when it comes to their safety—it benefits the employee and the employer for them to do so. Consider setting up evaluations for each employee every six months to a year to head off any problems that could arise.

3. Purchase ergonomically-conscious furniture
No, we’re not suggesting you sell the furniture you currently have for firewood and start over, but as the need arises to purchase a new piece, make the choice to spend a bit more on something that’s designed with employees’ best interests in mind. The return on investment will be worth it. If you allow your employees to choose the new items, let them know that you would prefer an ergonomic option.

Sometimes there is hesitation when an employee asks for that comfy chair that can set you back a couple hundred dollars, espcially when knowing that last week’s request had them asking for a glare and protector screen. In my experience policing furniture purchases under $500 per department each month by HR and Operations only leads to added headaches and paperwork. It’s my time and money better spent somewhere else. 

4. Get employees up and moving
One company I worked for actually included office-friendly stretches in their monthly employee newsletter and encouraged employees to take breaks to walk and move around. Stretching relieves tension in muscles and makes employees more conscious of their posture in general. It’s why I’ve always kept a yoga mat in my office. Yup, I’m all ergonomical like that. All these things add up to fewer workplace injuries.

Creating a healthy and stable work environment doesn’t have to cost you millions. Reducing workers’ compensation claims protects your company in both a short term and long term investment. What ways does your office provide assistance in reducing these types of claims? 

Jessica Miller-Merrell, SPHR is a workplace and technology strategist specializing in social media. She’s an author who writes at Blogging4Jobs. You can follow her on Twitter @blogging4jobs.

 

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