Work from home

Self-assessments can reduce work-from-home ergonomic issues

Ergonomic workers compensation injuries can be costly, and working from home may increase their likelihood, according to an expert who spoke during a session Thursday at the Risk & Insurance Management Society Inc.’s 2021 online conference.

Researchers studying the impact of the pandemic on the workforce have predicted that three-quarters of companies will permanently allow employees to work from home at least some of the time, said Michelle Despres, vice president and national product leader at Jacksonville, Florida-based One Call Care Management Inc.

But these remote employees face common risk factors in their home setup, including contact stresses, static work cycles and awkward postures. If they’re not working in an ergonomically correct environment, “there could be issues brewing under the surface,” Ms. Despres said.

As a result, employers could see an uptick in cumulative trauma injuries, including increases in wrist or forearm sprains, strains or contusions; pain in hands and fingers; cervical radiculopathy; carpal tunnel syndrome; and low back pain, she said.

A single carpal tunnel claim can cost between $30,000 and $64,000, and a sprain or strain can cost between $32,000 and $67,000, according to One Call research.

“Ergonomics can help mitigate the risk associated with these injuries,” Ms. Despres said. For instance, employers that have workers self-assess their ergonomic risks can make adjustments or modifications to their workspaces and control the “measures that might mitigate that injury risk.”

She highlighted an ergonomic program put into place by Briotix Inc., a workplace rehabilitation and injury prevention company, in the Los Angeles County tax collector’s office. Among its 450 clerical employees, the office averaged about 6.5 musculoskeletal claims annually between 2010 and 2015 at an average cost per claim of $53,000.

In 2016, it began an ergonomic program, asking workers to take a virtual assessment of their work setup and then making ergonomic changes based on the results of the assessment.

The county invested about $56,000 in total in the program. About 85% of the workers participated in the virtual assessment, and the county purchased $9,000 of equipment for 57 workers based on the results of the assessment to improve the ergonomic conditions.

In the three years following the implementation of the program, the county averaged 3.3 musculoskeletal claims annually and the average cost per claim dropped to $13,000, according to the research.

“Ergonomics can help mitigate the risk associated with these injuries,” Ms. Despres said. For instance, employers that have workers self-assess their ergonomic risks can make adjustments or modifications to their workspaces and control the “measures that might mitigate that injury risk.”

Source: http://www.businessinsurance.com/article/20210429/NEWS06/912341531/Self-assessments-can-reduce-work-from-home-ergonomic-issues,-

Donovan Larsen

Donovan is a columnist and associate editor at the Dark News. He has written on everything from the politics to diversity issues in the workplace.

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