A Focus on Posture Can Improve Worker Health and Safety

It doesn’t take a lot to tweak or pull a muscle. For employees today, many repetitive tasks and bad behaviors can be just as risky on the job as working from heights, and that can add up to workers’ compensation insurance claims and added expenses.

In fact, ergonomics should be a priority for all companies and their staff members. It doesn’t matter if the day is spent sitting at a computer, working in a warehouse or helping patients in a hospital – each job presents its own set of risks that can directly hamper a person’s ability to be productive. Recently, more employees and their companies are looking for ways to improve ergonomics in the workplace, and a report from the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health may help shed some light on potential safety measures.

Posture can be a problem for workers
While many employers are focused on the big hazards on the job, there are other, smaller problems that can really add up to create additional workers’ compensation insurance claims and rising costs. One of those issues is posture, and every industry has to deal with this potential risk.

To address this topic, NIOSH partnered with the Canadian Centre of Research Expertise for the Prevention of Musculoskeletal Disorders to create a report that covers how to assess posture on the job.

“Overexertion injuries to muscles, bones or joints cost U.S. businesses billions of dollars each year,” said Brian Lowe, Ph.D., research industrial engineer and NIOSH author. “This report can assist practitioners by providing research-based and practical recommendations to improve their practice of posture analysis of workers who are at risk of injury from lifting, pushing, pulling, carrying, or manual handling.”

In the report, NIOSH outlined several tips that could help employers determine if posture is a problem in their companies:

  • Record employees at work from different angles
  • Stress the importance of proper clothing for each task, especially during the assessment phase
  • Focus on specific limbs that may be at risk of injury

Overall, NIOSH explained that a research-based approach to injury assessment can provide clear results and detail methods to improve safety and mitigate risk.

Employers look for ways to improve posture
While figuring out if a problem exists in the workplace is important, many employers are taking steps to improve safety one way or the other. For instance, a focus on ergonomics is starting to gain momentum across the country.

According to a community partnership website between the Kansas-based Lawrence Journal-World and the Lawrence Memorial Hospital, employees are starting to find ways to improve their posture on the job. In one office, several people have decided to use standing desks to avoid sitting for hours on end.

Kim King, a physical therapist at Lawrence Memorial Hospital, explained to the news source that addressing issues with ergonomics can prevent disorders such as carpal tunnel, tendonitis and tennis elbow. However, each employer must look at their own situation because there is rarely a common solution that works for everybody.

“We’re not a one-size-fits-all society,” she told the news source. “Some chairs fit smaller people better; some fit taller people. We shouldn’t order a chair just because it’s a good price; we should order it because it’s the right chair.”

Most importantly, employers should talk to their employees. It can help to have a meeting to discuss ergonomics and outline problems and solutions. This will be a good preventative first step toward limiting insurance claims and stopping injuries on the job.