Healthy Workplace: Preventing RSDs

Repetitive stress disorders, or injuries (RSDs) affect employee wellness in every field. Whether your workforce is on an assembly line, in the checkout lane, or in front of computer screens, RSDs are likely a problem. So are WMSDs (work-related musculoskeletal disorders). Not only can these chronic medical problems cause long-term discomfort for employees, disability claims (sometimes long-term) can wreak havoc on your bottom line. So, with this week’s segment on employee wellness, let’s look at some ways you can encourage healthy habits to prevent injuries with acronyms.

Invest in an Ergonomic Workspace

I try not to begin these tips with the word “invest.” However, this is a case where employee wellness is worth forking over some cash. According to OSHA, total direct costs for WMSDs cost U.S. businesses around $50 billion annually. WMSDs also account for up to 34% of all lost workday illnesses and injuries.

With numbers like that, it is in your best interest to have an ergonomics evaluation at your workplace. An ergonomist can take a look at your workplace, and help you figure out what upgrades would be the most helpful for your company. Solutions like raising or lowering chair height, providing in-line document reviewers, or ear rests for telephones might have a big impact for a relatively low cost. Take the time to crunch the numbers on how much WMSDs are costing your business, and determine an appropriate amount for an investment in employee wellness upgrades.

Encourage Regular Breaks

Repetitive stress injuries, as their name implies, are caused by repetitive motions. Carpal tunnel syndrome and tendonitis are common examples of this type of injury, estimated to cost employers close to $2 billion annually. Encourage healthy habits by instructing employees to take regular breaks from the kind of work that causes the injury. Encourage a 60-second break every 15-to-20 minutes for rest, and stretching tense muscles. Certain kinds of stretches can help prevent or treat RSDs.

Educate Your Employees

Set aside annual or semi-annual employee wellness meetings to talk about healthy habits for preventing stress injuries. Many of these injuries can be prevented by adopting simple practices like sitting up straight, or holding wrists level. Consider hiring a guest speaker to give a lively presentation on the importance of adopting these healthy habits. Provide employees with posters or signs to remind them about proper ergonomic positions. Explain ways to recognize early signs of a RSD. Also be sure to allow time for a Q & A, so that employees can apply their newfound knowledge to their specific position.

How do you encourage employee wellness through ergonomics? What healthy habits do you recommend? Give us your tips below, or send me a tweet: @ithinkther4iamb

IMAGE: Courtesy of Flickr by Kare_Products