The Ergo In “Ergoturn”
Ergonomics is simply the science of fitting the job to the worker, as opposed to the traditional approach of fitting the worker to the job. Ergonomic solutions that create a safe, worker-friendly environment, minimizing worker stress and injury, often appear to come up short in cost-benefit comparisons. Why spend $30,000 on a weld positioner for a $25,000-per-year employee, when a chain and hoist and a little effort by the employee can get the job done without the expenditure? For employers and industrial analysts who have studied such comparisons in depth, the answer is obvious.
Manually wrestling heavy workpieces and welding in awkward positions over extended periods of time is inefficient and contributes to inconsistent welds and poor product quality. It reduces productivity by increasing handling, welding, and weld cleanup time. Worker discomfort invites workplace injuries, which can result in lost and restricted workdays and increased medical and workers' compensation costs. Ultimately, a stressed or fatigued worker will take longer and more frequent breaks, spend less time focused on the job, and often develops a poor work attitude and higher levels of tardiness or absenteeism. Most employees want to do their work and do it well. Unnecessary physical impediments that limit worker productivity can be just as frustrating to employees as they are to a company's bottom line.
So, what are the costs? Workplace injuries and illnesses cost over $170 billion each year, with over $60 billion directly attributable to workers' compensation claims. According to the American Medical Association, workplace accidents claim 6,500 lives annually, and cause over 13 million non-fatal injuries. Of these, the Bureau of Labor Statistics has identified 1.75 million cases that result in lost workdays. Nearly half of all workers compensation claims are caused by back injuries. Most of these are due to back strain resulting from excess lifting, bending, and turning, or by contorted work positions.