The applied science of equipment design, as for the workplace, intended to maximize productivity by reducing operator fatigue and discomfort. Also called biotechnology, human engineering, human factors engineering.
The retail-store industry loses millions of dollars as a result of on-the-job injuries each year. Most of the injuries are preventable and are a result of not recognizing the importance of ergonomics in the workplace. The AAPMR says that, "According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, workers lost more than 647,000 workdays in 1996 due to musculoskeletal disorders. (1) Approximately $15-$20 billion is what the cost has been to worker's compensation for injuries that occurred while performing job duties. On-the job injuries affect the company's bottom line which equals profits. As a result everyone at the firm loses out in the form of salaries or benefits.
Ergonomics 101 for the workplace
It is extremely important that employers educate themselves with the ergonomics of the workplace. For example if the work surface is to low, which causes frequent bending over, raise the work surface. If the computer monitor is to the side of the employee, and the employee is experiencing neck pains, move the monitor directly in front of the person. Another example is for people who type for long periods and have wrist pains, provide them with wrist pads. For workers that their job requires them to stand for the majority of the day, add a floor mat to cushion the hard cement floor. Perry Bonomo says that "As a safety professional, it is important for you to know the risk factors for repetitive stress injuries and how to correct and eliminate these risks. (2) These are some of the basic solutions that a company can employ for a more healthy work environment.
Legislation for Ergonomics Rule
In 2001, the national Congress was presented with a set of ergonomics standards that every general industry in the country would be mandated to exercise. This ergonomic control program would include job monitoring and training. The cost of such a program would have no maximum for an employer, which means that the employer would have to implement new equipment and training regardless of the cost to the company. The Congress voted against the ergonomics rule which is most beneficial to the business community.
Since the Bush administration took office, they have declared a new plan for the ergonomics program. Instead of being a mandatory program for a business the administration made it a voluntary decision but created a plan for this complex issue. There are four sections to this new plan which is being governed by a government agency. Stephanie Salmon writes:
The four segments of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration's (OSHA) approach are: 1) industry-specific or task-specific guidelines focusing on high-hazard industries; 2) enforcement through the general duty clause on employers who are not making good-faith efforts to reduce ergonomic injuries; 3) outreach and assistance of business to help them address ergonomic issues; and, 4) research to better understand the application of ergonomics in the workplace. (3)
The lack of an ergonomics rule on the federal level gives the states the authority to implement any regulations on ergonomics for their specific state.
Verizon's "Standing-Only Policy
There are many retail stores with "standing-only policies across the country. The employees of Verizon Wireless petitioned the policy which they stated "is not consistent for the kind of outstanding customer service which Verizon Wireless prides itself on providing the public. (4) The Human Factors and Ergonomics Society recognizes that employees who work in sit and stand workstations should be provided with height adjustable chairs. In order for employees to address ergonomic issues they must use collective bargaining with their employer.