An industrial hygienist recently told one of the authors that he despised ergonomics since there are no established threshold limit values or permissible exposure limits, and it’s difficult to measure risk reduction from added control measures. Other SH&E professionals may share similar sentiments and avoid tackling ergonomics-related risks in favor of safety and health concerns they feel more comfortable measuring and controlling.
Nearly every industry or workplace has ergonomics-related risks. In 2010, soft-tissue disorders known as musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) accounted for 33% of all disabling occupational in-juries (BLS, 2012) and more than 42% of total workers’ compensation costs (Liberty Mutual, 2012). Some believe these figures are conservative. For example, Manuele (2013) cites sources that suggest ergonomics-related incidents ac- count for 50% of all lost-time incidents and 60% of direct costs. OSHA has estimated that MSDs costs U.S. businesses more than $20 billion a year. By any measure, ergonomic risks are costly.
Workplaces that ignore ergonomic risks also spend more, often much more, to produce less at lower quality and generally suffer low employee morale. All of this translates to being less competitive and unsustainable.
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