Return on ergonomic investments

A well set-up work space with ergonomically correct equipment can dramatically reduce costs for sick pay, substitutes and gaps in production.

According to research by world-renowned Swedish organization TCO Development, strain injuries are the third most common work-related injury in Sweden. It also reports that strain injuries related to computer use are constantly increasing, and the injuries are becoming more severe. Calculations shows that strain injuries cost the Swedish society about 1 to 2 percent of the GNP each year. With this said, it' s obvious that employers, organizations and society as a whole can benefit financially by building ergonomically correct work spaces.

Even though Sweden has been on the forefront when it comes to research and preventive care for work-related injuries, this is by no means just a Swedish problem. Strain injuries, and repetitive strain injuries (RSI) in particular, are problems that face computer users all over the developed world. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), RSI' s are the nation' s most common and costly occupational health problem, affecting hundreds of thousands of American workers, and costing more than $20 billion a year in Workers' Compensation.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, nearly two-thirds of all occupational illnesses reported were caused repeated trauma to a worker' s upper body (the wrist, elbow or shoulder). One common example of such an injury is carpal tunnel syndrome.

The Annual Survey of Occupational Injuries and Illnesses conducted by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) shows that musculoskeletal disorders, including carpal tunnel syndrome, are among the most prevalent medical conditions in the U.S., affecting seven percent of the population. They account for 14 percent of physician visits and 19 percent of hospital stays. Sixty-two percent of people with musculoskeletal disorders report some degree of limitation on activity, compared with 14 percent of the population at large, according to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health.

Further studies by the National Centre for Health Statistics show that approximately 260,000 carpal tunnel release operations are performed each year, with 47 percent of the cases considered to be work-related. Carpal tunnel syndrome results in the highest number of days lost among all work related injuries. Almost half of the carpal tunnel cases result in 31 days or more of work loss.

The number of injuries caused by frequent computer use is staggering. Presently, the costs to businesses that employ workers at high risk to develop carpal tunnel syndrome and other repetitive stress injuries are estimated to cost employers more than $80 billion yearly. According to the National Council of Compensation Insurance, the average compensation of a CTS victim is $33,000.