Sometimes, constantly having to cost-justify the existence of my discipline “Ergonomics” and the value of the ergonomics programs to companies and organizations just makes me so angry!
If everything in the corporate world were cost justified and proved to work, then I wouldn’t mind so much. However, companies make major assumptions about supposed productivity benefits from investing in new computers, new software, new furniture and even new buildings. Yet seldom is there any check on the return on investment.
Interestingly, ergonomics has considerable positive value in product design; witness the use of the word in advertising everything from cars to sports drinks bottles. But when it comes to implementing ergonomics programs, there can be vehement resistance. So why is ergonomics treated in such different ways? I think the reason is a widespread misunderstanding and ignorance of ergonomics. So if you aren’t already familiar with the value of the ergonomics programs, let me summarize some key considerations below:
Still not convinced of the value of an ergonomics program? Then consider the following published evidence of the value of implementing an ergonomics program:
In addition to the above, there are numerous other studies that show that a good ergonomics program that educates workers in ergonomics will be extremely cost-effective in preventing musculoskeletal disorders and improving work performance.
A good ergonomics program is ALWAYS in a company’s best interests and will result in more effective work practices. If you’re in business, ergonomics considerations should be as critical to your decision making as economic issues. After all, as Hal Hendrick, the former president of the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society writes, “Good Ergonomics is Good Economics.”
Alan Hedge, Ph.D., CPE, is the Director of the Human Factors and Ergonomics Laboratory at Cornell University.
Gauf, M. (1998). “Ergonomics that work: Case studies of companies cutting costs through ergonomics.” Haverford, PA: CTDNews.
“Worker Protection: Private Sector Ergonomics Yield Positive Results” GAO REPORT HEHS-97-163, 1997.
Hamrick, 2001, Proc. HFES,1, 987-991.
Karsh et al., 2001, Proc. HFES,1, 992-996.
Hendrick, H. 1996, Good Ergonomics Is Good Economics (http://hfes.org/publications/GoodErgoGoodEco.html).
This article originally appeared in The Ergonomics Report™ on 2004-03-01.