Back injuries in the workplace are most commonly caused as a result of unsafe carrying or lifting of heavy or awkward objects. These accidents often occur when the proper ergonomic lifting solutions are not in place. Back injuries can be extremely costly to companies in a range of ways. Direct, or hard, costs are easy to identify and become apparent soon after an incident. Indirect, or soft, costs, however, can recur over the course of several years.
Identifying Direct Costs
Medical expenditures are one of the most significant direct costs. They include hospital, pharmacy and physical therapy expenses. Indemnity payments can include disability compensation, dependent benefits, settlements, legal expenses, and more. And program costs include excess premiums, claims administrative expenses and taxes, among others.
Identifying Indirect Costs
Having a worker injure his or her back because ergonomic lifting equipment was not available can lead to years of financial burdens for a company. These persistent and numerous costs over long periods can be 3 to 10 times higher than direct costs. They include, but are not limited to, loss of productivity when workers return, replacing, training and hiring new workers, OSHA fines, and product and/or material damage.
Let’s take a closer look at one of the most significant costs that occur as a result of ergonomic products not being properly utilized in the workplace. Between 2000 and 2017 health expenditures nearly doubled. The cost of healthcare for back pain sufferers is on average 60 percent more than those without back pain. Employers that require employees to lift or move objects are at risk of incurring these higher medical costs. Lower back pain is the second leading cause of disability in the US, second only to cancer.
Back injury sufferers are among the most expensive patients. This is not only due to the injury itself, but also the side effects that come along with the ailment. Being in constant pain and having limited mobility can lead to chromic fatigue and depression. These conditions have their own costs including ongoing pharmaceutical expenditures and physiological treatment.
How to Help Workers Avoid Back Injuries
Back pain and back injuries are not just a result of lifting heavy objects. Although this is certainly a leading cause, there are others as well.
Lifting awkwardly shaped, but not necessarily heavy, objects can cause your body and back to strain in an effort to get into the right position for this type of lift. Ergonomic lifts are specially designed to carry boxes, totes and other objects that are awkwardly shaped and difficult to handle without assistance.
Repetitive motion that relies on twisting, rotating or bending of the spine can, over time, can cause damage to the back. Ergonomic products such as tote and box lifts, and vacuum lifts may be appropriate for these types of roles.
Sitting in one position all day can lead to back issues. Desk and static workstation jobs are leading candidates. Workers with poor posture, or those that sit in chairs with insufficient back support, are more likely to have problems. Desk and workstation lifts can help workers change their position from siting to standing. Hydraulic or electronic legs move the work surface up and down on demand.
Of course lifting and moving heavy objects is a leading cause of workplace back injuries. A wide range of ergonomic equipment exists that is specifically designed for these tasks. Electric tugs push and pull heavy loads. Vacuum and magnetic lifts grab, pick up and move objects. Self-leveling carts position objects at the right elevation for workers to build up or break down bulk loads without bending over. Heavy-duty carts and conveyors are built for use in trains throughout the lean material flow manufacturing or warehouse process. Air bearing casters and platforms move extremely heavy objects. And ergonomic lifts and manipulators lift and move totes, boxes, rolls, drums and barrels.
The direct and indirect costs of employee back injuries can be very hard for small businesses to manage. Planning to prevent these injuries is the first step to avoiding them. Ergonomic lift products are an excellent way to reduce and eliminate the risk and to keep your valued employees safe and happy.
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