From The Ergoweb® Learning Center

Norwegian Companies Look to Ergonomics To Curb Rising Absenteeism

What do you do when daily absenteeism rates soar to 25 percent? For companies in Norway who are facing exactly that, the answer is to call in ergonomics.

Everything from new tools and equipment to modified schedules are being implemented to keep the rising absenteeism rates at bay in a country long known for its rigorous work ethic. While analysts note that a generous welfare system may also be contributing to the steep rates of absenteeism, the country’s workers still report musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) as their second most common complaints, just behind colds and the flu.

One reason for their injuries, concludes the country’s labor unions, is the influx of international companies who over the past 10 years have caused workers in Norway to face job insecurity for the first time. That, says union leaders, means workers will stay at work even when they’re injured, and cause their injuries to potentially worsen which then leads to long-term disability. Business leaders counter the unions’ claims by noting that Norwegians currently work shorter work weeks, have longer vacations and better welfare services than ever before.

Still, noting that an absenteeism problem exists, the Norwegian government stepped in during 2001 in an attempt to curb the country’s absenteeism rate by implementing an agreement with employers and unions that would get workers back to work; however, the agreement, says the New York Times, was largely ignored by all of the parties.

Now the government is beginning to enforce the agreement, at least in part. Employers, for example, are now required to offer injured workers flexible hours or alternative duties to get them back on the job. For Norwegian company Dynea, which invests in special equipment, when necessary, for injured employees and meets with workers who are out for more than 16 days to help them get better treatment, following the country’s guidelines has resulted in a company-wide absenteeism rate that now hovers at a substantially lower 3.3 percent.

A Dynea company foreman who works part-time because of an injury, notes that the company even got a lift chair to accommodate him. That type of worker/employer relationship, says the foreman, helps breed loyalty in other, non-injured employees as well. “If your relationship with your company is very good, you go to work, even if you are a little bit sick,” he says.

Source: New York Times