Injuries on the job are commonplace in every company. Trips, slips, falls, drops, and all other types of accidents can lead to injuries that can have significant implications on your organization’s bottom line. But what if I told you that there was another, slow-developing type of injury that could hinder worker performance and wreak havoc on your company’s profitability? I’m talking about Musculoskeletal Disorders (MSDs), or Repetitive Stress Injuries (RSIs), the boogeyman for office-based employees who work primarily at computers and repeat the same tasks in the same posture day-in and day-out. Although not as sudden as other workplace injuries, MSDs can have a massive toll on your workforce.
Did you know that:
- According to Swedish researchers, up to 50% of workers who frequently use the computer suffer from some RSI symptom.
- About 1.8 million people develop full-blown RSIs at work, and over 600,000 workers require time off to recover per year.
- Employees suffering from occupational RSI’s take an average of 23 days to recover, compared to an average of 9 days for other workplace injuries.
- According to OSHA, MSDs account for more than $20 billion annually in workers’ compensation and up to $100 billion for indirect costs like hiring and training replacement workers.
Now those are some daunting numbers, but they are a little vague. RSIs and MSDs can be anything from knee issues, low-back pain, and upper extremity problems like carpal tunnel syndrome, among others. For the sake of this blog, let us narrow our focus a bit and focus on one of the most prevalent MSDs in the office space, carpal tunnel syndrome. For those that are unfamiliar with carpal tunnel syndrome, it is caused by actions that squeeze or irritate the median nerve (which runs through the forearm and wrist into the hand) in the carpal tunnel space at the bottom of the wrist, along with other factors. Carpal tunnel syndrome can be one of the costliest injuries for a company as it often requires time away from work to recover, surgery, or both.
Some quick carpal tunnel syndrome facts:
- According to the BLS, 32.5% of all occupational RSIs are due to carpal tunnel syndrome.
- The BLS reported that carpal tunnel syndrome is the injury with the highest average of missed workdays at 25 days.
- According to OSHA, the average direct cost of carpal tunnel workplace injury to employers is $28,647 per employee in direct costs.
Just one employee developing carpal tunnel syndrome has some severe implications to the bottom line. And that’s just the direct costs of insurance and workers comp payments. When you factor in indirect costs like loss of productive hours, finding a replacement for the position, and time and resources for training, those costs can potentially double. OSHA has a great calculator that can show you the actual costs of all sorts of injuries, including carpal tunnel syndrome.
Luckily, it’s not total doom and gloom. Like most workplace MSDs, Carpal tunnel syndrome can be reduced by taking proactive steps with the workforce. It goes without saying that nothing is fool-proof, and even the most ergonomically proactive companies can still have employees that develop MSDs. But, companies can significantly reduce their risk and potential exposure to their bottom line by implementing a robust preventative ergonomics program that includes:
- Ergonomic evaluations
- Stretch breaks
- Ability to “unchain” from the desk
- Proper ergonomic equipment
While this may seem like a tall task and not a free endeavor, the proof is in the pudding for yearly cost savings. OSHA estimates that every dollar spent on preventative ergonomic measures will save a company three in the long run. Do you have employees who have pain and strain in their upper extremities from using the computer? Drop us a line, and let’s see if we can help with your bottom line.
Want to learn more on how ergonomics can affect your workforce?