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Building a Case for Ergonomics in your Organization

Musculoskeletal disorders (injuries or disorders of the muscles, nerves, tendons, joints, cartilage, and spinal discs associated with exposure to risk factors in the workplace) account for nearly 70 million physician office visits in the United States annually, and an estimated 130 million total health care encounters including outpatient, hospital, and emergency room visits

WMSDs (work related musculoskeletal disorders) account for approximately one third of all lost workday illnesses.  A disorder is work related when work procedures, equipment, or environment contribute significantly to the cause of the disorder.  World Health Organization, 1985


  • The Institute of Medicine estimates of the economic burden of WMSDs, as measured by compensation costs, lost wages, and lost productivity, are between $45 and $54 billion annually.
  • According to OSHA MSDs cost businesses $15 -$20 billion per year in the United States.
  • The Bureau of Labor Statistics (1995) has reported that in one year there were 705,800 cases of days away from work that resulted from overexertion or pain from repetitive motion.
  • WMSDs of the hand and wrist are associated with the longest absences from work and are, therefore, associated with greater lost productivity and wages than those of other anatomical regions.
  • Numerous surveys of working populations have reported upper extremity symptom prevalence of 20 to 30% or even higher.
  • Carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS), caused by compression of the median nerve in the carpal tunnel with subsequent loss of sensorimotor function along the median nerve distribution, was associated with the highest median days away from work (25 days), and injuries to the wrist in general resulted in a median of 13 days away from work.
  • For a company employing 500 computer users, a 10% reduction in repetitive strain injuries and symptoms would yield an annual savings of $700,000.
  • A common safety statistic is that for every $1 spent on safety there is a $3 return.

Incidence Rate

Bureau of Labor Statistics Incidence Calculator:  Using incidence rates allows a firm to evaluate its injury and illness experience and compare its experience to other firms doing the same type of work and of the same employment size group. A guide that describes how to compute your firm’s incidence rate is available.

(Number of injuries and illnesses X 200,000) / Employee hours worked = Incidence rate


where the 200,000 hours in the formula represent the equivalent of 100 employees working 40 hours per week, 50 weeks per year.


Metrics Tracking for Outcome

Metircs to track include: productivity, health care costs, health outcomes and organizational change