Workplace injuries can be one of the most costly variables modern businesses face.
Not only can such injuries present potentially devastating results to the health of a worker, it impacts a company's valuable human resource. And with health care costs on the rise, unexpected on-the-job injuries can quickly rack up astronomical fees.
In 2013, the most recent report available, there were slightly more than 3 million workplace injuries reported by private employers, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. That equates to an incidence rate of 3.3 cases per 100 full time workers. How a business budgets for such injuries, therefore, is a significant challenge.
Southworth Product Corp, the world's largest manufacturer of ergonomic material handling equipment and container handling equipment for vertical lifting and work positioning, makes products that can alleviate these issues.
Lines of equipment include: scissor lift tables, container tilters, pallet level loaders, pallet trucks, turntables and other palletizing equipment, coil and roll handling equipment,
Southworth is headquartered in Falmouth, Maine, has a manufacturing facility in the central location of Manila, Arkansas and offices in Europe and Asia. The company, now in its 125th year, is represented by a network of distributors for application assistance following sales. The company has been publishing literature on workplace ergonomics for several decades.
“When we began writing about ergonomics more than 30 years ago, we were simply attempting to bring more scientific perspective to a common sense issue. If you consider the capabilities and limitations of the worker in the design of the workplace, the worker will be more productive and that productivity contributes to profit,” says the company's website.
At the time, company leaders didn't imagine the subject would become such a major issue across so many professions.
“Despite all of the politics and hoopla, our view today is the same as it was 30 years ago. The practical application of ergonomic principles is core business proposition. Yes, it is about reducing worker fatigue and the risk of worker injury, which are very worthwhile objectives.”
“However, the real desired benefit driving factory or warehouse investment is increased productivity and an improved bottom line. That's what investment in practical ergonomics produces and that is the point we have been making for decades.”
One multiple page graphic art document published by Southworth offered suggestions of productivity-related problems that can be found by examining company records. They are:
- High job-related accidents or injuries
- High absenteeism and / or turnover on a specific job
- High disciplinary action on a specific job
- High rework or material waste
- Low output or product quality
- Declining output or product quality over a job shift
- Workers maintaining a single posture for extended periods
- Workers absorbing the vibrations of their tools
- Workers who are frequently away from or have modified their work station
- Workers who have modified their tools
- Multiple workers handling the same part
- Controls that are difficult to reach or read
- Poor lighting, ventilation or climate
On Southworth's blog, sales manager Randy Moore says one of the most common questions sales people are asked is how much can safely be lifted.
“The answer is a bit complicated because of a number of variables. Thanks to our friends at Washington State Dept. of Labor & Industries and in cooperation with Oregon OSHA there is now a simple way to address that question,” he writes, linking to the new calculator at www.orosha.org/interactive/lifting/lift_safety.html. “Simply answer two questions about the task and calculator instantly computes the amount than can be safely lifted. It works great!” he said.
The good news about the pattern of workplace injuries, is that even though potentially costly, they do appear to be on the decline. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that the 2013 figures for workplace injuries are part of a “significant decline” that with the exception of 2012, have occurred over the past 11 years.
For more current suggestions on ergonomics in the workplace, including a free booklet of guidelines, visit www.southworthproducts.com.
Eileen Schmidt is a freelance writer and journalist based in the Greater Milwaukee area. She has written for print and online publications for the past 12 years. Email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit eileenmozinskischmidt.wordpress.com to contact Eileen