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Ergonomics in the Workplace: A Cost/Benefit Analysis

Saturday, November 13, 2010
By Anne Kramer

Managers of modern businesses are faced with decisions all the time. Is it a good idea to assign overtime this week? How much can we afford to spend on a new piece of office equipment? Should we take on a new employee? But while management must tackle these questions as they come, there exist quandaries they may have never considered. We’re talking about ergonomics here. The application of ergonomic principles to any number of aspects of a business has the capacity to greatly impact the way it is run, but at certain costs.

Typically, when management faces a decision such as this, they employ any number of methods to aid in the process. One such method is known as "Cost/Benefit Analysis." Used since the mid-1800’s, Cost/Benefit Analysis, or "CBA," tackles hypothetical scenarios in a systematic way, first gathering any and all positive aspects of taking the step, and weighing them against any negative factors to determine a net result. This net result is then used to make the final decision.

Applying a CBA to the application of ergonomic principles in the workplace is no simple task. It requires time and effort, both of which, while "on the clock," cost money. It is our hope at that you can use this CBA of the application of ergonomic principles in a either typical small office workplace, or in your daily life as a general guide in performing such an analysis to save time and money in the long run.

The Question: Should management/the individual "O.K." the purchase of several standard ergonomic products, including ergonomic chairs, desks, keyboards, and accessories for the workplace?

Positive Factors:
  • Employees (including management) will be furnished with an ergonomically-sound workplace, which will discourage the incidence of repetitive stress injuries, many of which must be covered by worker’s compensation.
  • Employees will enjoy a higher of level of comfort while working, leading to happier employees, which studies show, are more productive.
  • The institution of ergonomic tools and practices in the workplace has been shown to streamline routine tasks, which leads to lower operating costs.
Negative Factors:
  • The purchase of ergonomic equipment will require capital which could be otherwise invested.

It should be plain to see, even in this brief CBA, that the institution of ergonomic tools and practices in the workplace carries more benefits than costs. It is our hope that more management teams around the country will employ analyses such as these, not only for the well-being of their employees, but for their "bottom-line" as well.

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