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October is National Ergonomics Month

Half of Americans have a musculoskeletal disorder (MSD) – an injury to the muscles, nerves, tendons, joints, cartilage, or spine. Some risk factors for MSDs are repetitive movements, excessive vibration, awkward postures, extreme temperatures, heavy lifting, and overexertion. Workplace ergonomic injuries are projected to cost U.S. employers an average of $17,000 per claim over the next 12 to 18 months.

What can companies do to reduce MSDs and associated costs?

Man's back superimposed with an image of the spine


1 Get management support for an ergonomics program.

When an employee’s body is stressed because of work position, procedures, or environment, their musculoskeletal system is affected. Injuries can occur over time or instantly, and can cause career-ending disabilities. Get management support by communicating about the MSD costs and liabilities if ergonomic workstations, environments, and processes are not put in place.

2 Engage employees.

Get employees to buy into the success of an ergonomics program. Show workers how ergonomics prevents costly MSDs which gives the company the ability to provide raises, profit sharing, bonuses, and other work-related improvements. Have employees assess their work environments and get them actively involved to develop, implement, and evaluate ergonomic solutions to keep them healthier, happier, and less stressed on the job.

3 Provide training.

Ensure workers know how to reduce or prevent common MSDs such as carpal tunnel syndrome, arthritis, and back, shoulder, neck, hip, and knee pain. Educate employees about simple changes that can prevent these injuries, such as changing positions often, maintaining a neutral posture, lifting and reaching correctly, and taking breaks as needed.

4 Support remote workers.

Employers should ensure that hybrid workers, who split their time between the office and remote locations have the support they need to reduce MSDs. Research shows that 43% of remote employees haven’t improved their at-home workspace due, at least in part, to personal finances. A Global Workplace Analytics report states that employers save about $11,000 for each employee who works at home 50% of the time and even more when employees move to work remotely full time. Companies may consider providing financial help to encourage employees to set up ergonomic workstations.

5 Encourage early reporting of MSD symptoms.

Early reporting of symptoms can prevent long-term disabilities and related costs. The most common early MSD symptoms are numbness and tingling in the extremities, especially in the fingers, that lasts more than 24 hours, or discomfort that prevents restful sleep. Give employees time to recover from MSDs and encourage them to get medical attention early if the pain does not go away. By catching MSDs early, employers can avoid costly workers’ compensation claims and workers can steer clear of long, painful recovery times.

For more information, download or stream any of the DWC Workplace Safety’s free industry-specific ergonomic publications or workplace safety videos. DWC’s safety training specialists and occupational safety and health consultants are also available to help your company create or improve your ergonomics program. Visit or call 1-800-252-7031, option 2, for assistance.


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Last updated: 3/13/2024