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Why Prescient Ergonomics Are the Future of Office Ergonomics

Photo: Courtesy of Annie Spratt

Ergonomics is critical to wellness because it directly affects the risks of musculoskeletal disorders that currently cost U.S. businesses $1 billion per week. Ergonomists know how to improve the design of office workplaces so that people will work in neutral postures that will benefit their health, eliminate musculoskeletal injury risks and boost their productivity. Unfortunately, traditional ergonomics programs typically are reactive, and interventions only happen after injuries have occurred.

Being proactive not reactive 

This ‘firefighting’ approach is unpredictably haphazard, costly and more challenging because often workers have already been injured. There are always too few ergonomists for too many cases in companies. Proactive ergonomics programs focus on strategies to prevent injuries from happening by early detection and intervention. But implementing a good proactive program requires proven early detection tools.

The importance of regular checkups

Medicine provides a model worth copying. Regular health checkups allow physicians to detect patterns of risks factors for subsequent disease so that patients can change their lifestyles and/or medication to reduce disease risks. Similarly, regular ergonomics checkups can provide the same benefit. Modern computing power coupled with an ergonomic expert system can provide the predictive analytics tools and business intelligence that allows a wide variety of ergonomic risk factors to be evaluated quickly and at low cost.

A powerful new plan

Prescient ergonomics is the new strategy that incorporates regular ergonomic wellness checkups for early detection of injury and other ergonomic risks, which then allows for early interventions, either training or products or both. Knowing what the injury risks are and who is at risk allows targeted interventions that prevent injuries — which saves money. Knowing what other ergonomic risks are present in the design of the tools, workplace, techniques, etc. allows interventions that will improve productivity and reduce costs by ameliorating these risks. Prediction and prevention always beats reaction.

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