Ergonomics. Employee Perk or Employee Right?

The truth is, companies spend tens of thousands of dollars each year on amenities like free coffee, tea and snacks.  Others spend hundreds of thousands if not millions per year on perks like free breakfast, lunch and dinner, (some even have free wine and beer on tap!) basketball courts, onsite gyms, massage therapists, traveling dry cleaners and dentists who come on site.  Yoga classes.  Stress management workshops.  Company outings. Team building activities.  All great stuff.  But ask for a new keyboard, chair or God forbid, a Sit Stand Desk so you can work in comfort and not hurt yourself and employers go bonkers.  Too many companies either ignore requests, make employees jump through hoops galore or have policies that demand a doctor’s note before any accommodations are made.  

The truth is, after 20 years of being in the ergonomic trenches – I’ve seen it all.  And I think the smart (and caring) companies approach ergonomics as not just an employee benefit or a perk but as a fundamental right.  Think about it this way:

“If a person is going to come work for our organization and help us further our cause, profit and make a difference in the world, don’t they at the very least deserve to work in a healthy environment?  Don’t the very people who allow our organization to be, deserve to work pain free?  Don’t they deserve to come to a safe place to work that promotes their health, well-being and dare I say, happiness?” 

Besides…’s the Law!

California was the first (and only) state in the U.S. that get its.  In April of 2000, Cal/OSHA finalized a regulation (California Code of Regulations, Title 8, Section 5110) that laid out a roadmap for employers to follow to minimize Repetitive Motion Injuries (also knows as Repetitive Strain Injury, RSI)

“The program shall include a worksite evaluation, control of exposures which have caused RMIs and training of employees.”

What I have never understood is that when this regulation sought adoption on a federal level, it got rejected.  But if you look closely at the opening paragraph of OSHA’s Law & Regulation, it clearly states the following, which to me, obligates all companies to ensure that all employees have a sound ergonomic set up.

Under the OSH Act, employers are responsible for providing a safe and healthful workplace. OSHA’s mission is to assure safe and healthful workplaces by setting and enforcing standards, and by providing training, outreach, education and assistance. Employers must comply with all applicable OSHA standards. Employers must also comply with the General Duty Clause of the OSH Act, which requires employers to keep their workplace free of serious recognized hazards.

Dear Employers & Management,

If you are a business owner, CEO, CFO or have an executive position, please listen up.   It’s not just your legal obligation to your employees, but embracing healthy ergonomics into your company culture is simply good business.  Your team will be more productive.  Your insurance costs will stay contained.  Your turn over rate will decrease.  People will want to work at your company!

If you work in Human Resources, Facilities, Safety & Security or any facet of Environmental Health and Safety – talk to management.  And management, please listen to the folks brining this to your attention.  With the right guidance ergonomics doesn’t have to break the bank.  In fact, at the end of the day, this investment will pay for itself many times over!   Check out this awesome tool from Cornell to calculate the ROI on Ergonomics!

Dear Employees

If you are working in an environment that is not comfortable, or out right hurting you, take matters into your own hands and try the following:

  1. See what you can do on your own with makeshift changes.  (I.e., adjust your chair, raise your monitor with reams of paper, re-arrange your desk so that your keyboard and mouse are within easy reach and at the right height., etc.)  For more help, try reading 3 Sure Sign That You Need An Ergo Tune Up
  2. If your set up isn’t working for you, meaning, something is not comfortable and certainly if anything is causing discomfort, Say. Something.  Be professional and be proactive.
  3. If something is recommended, please try it.   And remember, ergonomic devices, while they can be part of the solution are useless to you unless you do things like sit and stand with healthy posture, avoid pounding and over gripping your mouse or work tools.  Be aware of having easy fluid movements. Pace Yourself.  Take breaks and stretch!

At the end of the day, if we all take responsibility and commit to everyone working in a healthy environment and adopting ergonomics as a given, everyone will win.

Until the next time!


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