United Kingdom employers spend billions of dollars every year in costs associated with workplace injuries and related absences. Estimates allocate that between five and 20 billion pounds are spent each year toward strain injuries alone. For example, six workers in the United Kingdom leave their places of employment each day because of repetitive strain injuries (RSI).
RSI: An Equal Opportunity Injury
Unfortunately, it’s not just the reported half-million adult workers in the United Kingdom who have experienced symptoms and discomfort from RSI. Sixty percent of Swiss office workers have also reported RSI-like symptoms.
RSI is not an age-related condition: Sixty percent of Australian children who use laptop computers in school have also suffered from repetitive strain injuries. Additionally, 40 percent of Dutch students have an RSI condition.
Is There Hope?
Businesses and industries worldwide can and do focus training, work positioning and furniture design to prevent motion strain when possible. Ergonomic chairs, office and machinery lay-out and kinetics studies take the human form, effort and motion into consideration daily, all to reduce expenses from work-related healthcare and absenteeism. For example, one United Kingdom employer concluded average costs from medically retiring a worker totaled approximately £40,000. Preventative measures cost much less.
Employers aren’t the only responsible parties, however. Workers share the burden of prevention as well. Factory and even healthcare workers should be conscious of twisting, bending, lifting and even walking postures, especially after standing in one position for long periods of time. Office workers should be aware of sitting postures, hand-arm motions and proper positioning of hands and wrists when working on computers or typewriters.
Periodic stretching and moderate exercise can reduce the threat of repetitive strain injuries by loosening tight muscles and improving blood flow. Those businesses and industries that optimize preventative strategies report that RSI that result in lost work time and reduced productivity occur roughly three times less often than in workplaces that do not.
In the United States, studies have shown that for every dollar spent on ergonomics intervention, the furniture and motion studies and action, approximately $17.80 is saved or earned.
Benefits extend beyond the financial bottom line:
Workers have shown considerable loyalty and appreciation toward employers who demonstrate care, consideration and preventive action toward workplace injuries. Although no confirm figures have been published, employers who earn that loyalty note morale, willingness to flex in negotiations somewhat and increased productivity during busy periods are almost tangible, all of which contribute toward financial health for the business.
The human body is a marvelous machine. Its stamina and strength and, when joined with the intangible will of humans, can accomplish far more than one might expect. However, even the best-designed machines need care, consideration and maintenance.
The employer who negligently disregards workplace-generated repetitive strain injuries is swimming upstream of lost profits, increased absenteeism and lower morale of its work force.