Office Ergonomics Improve Health and Wellness

The aim of this study was to assess the effectiveness of an office ergonomics program (OEP), in order to help with employee retention and satisfaction and lessen injuries. It analyzed the incidence and costs incurred from muscular disorders due to poor office furniture and compared them to the costs of installing ergonomic furniture. Cost factors and economic benefits that accrued from the implementation of the program were scrutinized. It was found that since the initiation of the program there was a reduction in office cumulative trauma disorders by 53 percent, while the absenteeism and transfer rate decreased by 41 percent.

An office ergonomics program helps to control muscular injuries at work by the incorporation of better furniture as well as by the education of employees on office ergonomics and proper seating form at their desks. The people associated with an office ergonomics program were educated on office ergonomics by the health department. To prove the effectiveness of the program, the study was conducted to assess if initiation of an office ergonomics program would be less expensive than not having one. To determine this, the study looked at the trend of the musculoskeletal injuries and the cost of compensation after the office ergonomics program began.

* The study population consisted of university staff covered by the university’s workers’ compensation insurance.
* Analysis of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration records between the years 1991 to 2007 and the paid workers’ compensation between the years 1999 to 2007 was done.
* University staff was educated by the safety and health department website as well as advised on maintaining appropriate working postures.

* The most common disorders identified were carpal tunnel syndrome (63 percent of the cases), muscle tendon inflammation (21 percent) and sprain (16 percent). The total costs incurred on these disorders were 71 percent, 17 percent and 12 percent respectively.
* There was a reduction in the incidence of these disorders after the onset of the office ergonomics program.
* With a reduction in musculoskeletal disorders, the absenteeism and attirition rate also decreased.

Shortcomings/Next steps
Future steps include a feedback program to help provide further improvement and monitoring of the current program. The feedback could include an individual’s ailment survey done before and after participating in the existing office ergonomics program. A suggestion forum to make the program better has also been proposed by the authors.

The office ergonomics program was successful and it helped in the reduction of musculoskeletal ailments by almost 61 percent over the 13-year period. The implementation of the 50-50 equipment cost share effort between the university and the employees helped sustain the program. The success of the program has helped increase awareness and has led to active participation by university staff in good ergonomic practices.The voluntary submission of an ‘Office Worker Questionnaire’ and the appeal for an office assessment show the involvement and awareness of the university employees. Thus initiating awareness and programs such as these could lead to an individual’s responsibility and ownership in creating an ergonomic office environment.

For More Information:
Economic Evaluation to Assess the Effectiveness of a University-Wide Office Ergonomics Program
By Balmatee Bidassie, James D McGlothlin; Purdue University, West Lafayette, Indiana

*FYI Living Lab Reports Are Summaries of the Original Research.


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