Magazine article Occupational Hazards

Who Takes the Hit for Bad Ergonomics?

Magazine article Occupational Hazards

Who Takes the Hit for Bad Ergonomics?

Article excerpt

The budget responsible for health and safety purchases must reap the benefits of good ergonomics and take the hit for losses related to ergonomics.

WOULD YOU BUY a burglar alarm for my car? Would you pay for my insurance? Not very likely.

I've asked this question of many people, and with the exception of my mother, everyone has quickly answered "no." My mother suggested I sell my car.

No one but me suffers if my car gets stolen. If I told you that the insurance costs a quarter, you might dig into your pocket. But for the most part, very few of us can afford to spend serious money to protect someone else. It's not in our budgets.

That fact of life could be the biggest roadblock to solving ergonomic and safety and health problems. Bad ergonomics and poor safety and health conditions cost billions every year, but who takes the hit?

In a Risk and Insurance magazine survey of 260 risk management executives, more than 82% of those responding reported dealing with workers' compensation claims for carpal tunnel syndrome. Yet only 51.5% are purchasing or are planning to purchase ergonomic equipment. Only 61% perform or are planning to perform ergonomic job evaluations. Something's wrong with this picture.

Good ergonomic and health and safety programs pay dividends in reduced workers' compensation premiums and health costs and in increases in productivity and employee morale. But, with a few exceptions, the programs are not being used to the fullest.

How many times have you been told that the money is just not in the budget for an ergonomic improvement? At the same time, elsewhere at your company, money flies out the door to pay injuries related to ergonomics. Workers' compensation and health care costs get paid from one budget, and ergonomic fixes from another.

Modern corporations are comprised of fiefdoms -- divisions and departments set up as "profit centers." Managers and operating chiefs are judged and promoted in part by their ability to contain costs. That leads to some glaring contradictions. A case in point is the use of retroreflective tape on truck trailers.

The trucking industry spends millions each year defending against and settling lawsuits from accidents caused by cars driving under the trucks. …

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