Over 2 million cases of non-fatal injuries and illnesses were recorded in the private industry in 2016 with 317,530 cases attributed to sprains, tears and strains. These non-fatal injuries were responsible for absences from work with the median days calculated at 8 days. In addition, the Bureau of Labor Statistics indicate that repetitive motion at work contributed to the longest absences from work with a median average of 23 days. While prevention of sprains and strains are nearly impossible, reducing their impact by providing ergonomic furniture in a work station is feasible. It will not only improve safety and productivity, but also overall well-being.

Repetitive Strain Injury is One of the Major Causes of Employee Absenteeism
Of the non-fatal injuries reported, more than 229,000 involved falls, trips and slips while 154,180 cases of injuries to the back were reported.  Repetitive motion while working represented the biggest number of non-fatal injuries. There are many types of repetitive strain injury (RSI) and corresponding treatments. RSI affects any movable part of the body and may be caused by several factors. These include repetitive tasks, forceful actions or awkward positions.

The risks of RSI are further enhanced with certain activities such as poor posture, use of vibrating equipment, cold surroundings and over exerting muscles. Possible symptoms include loss of sensation, tingling, numbness, swelling/inflammation of muscles or pain in the affected area. Depending on a physician’s diagnosis of the condition, treatment may include anti-inflammatory medications, splints, physical therapy, surgery or application of hot/cold packs.

Ergonomic Furniture Can Help Reduce the Side Effects of RSI
Prevention of RSI is difficult especially if it relates to work or necessary activities. However, the risk of injury can be reduced by taking some precautionary measures. On top of providing safety equipment on site, creating an ergonomic work station for employees is a feasible option. While employers have no legal obligation to provide ergonomic furniture per OSHA regulations, they are responsible for ensuring safe working environments.

Ergonomic furniture can assist in improving worker’s welfare, reducing absences and in increasing productivity. Office furniture such as desks, chairs and filing cabinets are intrinsic parts of a work station.  In a study by neuromuscular researcher Di Luca, it was found that using ergonomic chairs that incorporated high tech materials reduced the activity of some back muscles by up to 28%. This is significant in reducing back pain caused by prolonged sitting where several muscles work to support the pelvis and the spine.

Another strategy to avoid lengthy times spent sitting is to install standing or adjustable desks. Finch et al revealed in their study that switching to standing desks +/- 30 minutes did not affect creativity or performance. A European research even indicated that standing for 6 hours/day prevents weight gain while Claus et al suggest that there is an increase in lumbar discs when sitting rather than standing. Finding a balance between standing and sitting can help improve posture and minimize back pain and other musculoskeletal injuries.

Workplace injuries due to repetitive motion can be reduced by creating an ergonomic work station. Ergonomic furniture reduces the strain on different movable parts of the body that will in turn lower the incidence of RSI among employees. Fewer absences from work improves overall productivity levels. A pleasant work station also provides comfort to employees improving their working capacity.

Guest blog courtesy of Jackie Edwards.