Most companies involved in material handling buy worker’s compensation and other insurance. But there’s another – dare we say, more practical – way to protect employees from the effects of injury while protecting your company from financial exposure. This “insurance” is motorized ergonomic solutions, and unlike traditional insurance, it will pay off quickly, before an injury may even occur, while helping prevent injury in the first place.
It’s estimated that over 40 million people age 45 or older in the U.S. have some form of musculoskeletal disorders (MSD). Of the more than 1.1 million occupational injuries that required days away from work to recuperate (as reported by the U.S. Department of Labor in 2011), 33 percent were directly related to MSD.
Has your business set specific ergonomic standards to keep your employees safe from musculoskeletal injury? Companies are realizing that these injuries not only have direct costs to their bottom line, but that the indirect costs of musculoskeletal injuries can add as much as, if not more than, direct costs. OSHA defines indirect costs as items such as wages not covered by workers’ comp, extra administrative time spent by staff after an employee injury, and training costs for replacement workers.
More companies are defining ergonomic standards more precisely, setting limits on push, pull and lifting forces in the workplace. They are analyzing their equipment, safety and insurance data to determine push and pull capacity thresholds for employees to avoid musculoskeletal injuries.
Honda America implemented a 35-lb. limit for push, pull or lifting forces that their employees can take on. Heavy equipment manufacturer Caterpillar set a 50-lb. limit, and engineering and electronics leader Siemens has also set its own standards for employees’ maximum moving and lifting forces.
Once ergonomic standards are determined, how do you maintain them without sacrificing productivity? If a payload exceeds the push/pull force limit, employees basically have three choices:
- Lighten the load – which reduces efficiency.
- Change floor surface to reduce wheel friction – which may be too costly or impractical.
- Use a motorized cart – which requires an investment, but which also adds productivity, reduces risk of injury and pays for itself quickly.
The difference in cost between a manual solution versus a motorized ergonomic solution is, in fact, insurance against future employee injuries. With traditional insurance, you only limit risk. With a motorized cart or tugger, you not only limit your financial exposure – you proactively decrease that exposure, lower your insurance rates, and if you are self-insured, save even more money. Now that’s insurance.
To learn more about how your company may be impacted by the costs of musculoskeletal injuries, and how to calculate the payback on implementing a solution, see our white paper, Impact of Musculoskeletal Injuries in the Workplace.