From The Ergoweb® Learning Center

Relating Health Care Cost Savings to Ergo Intervention

Musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) are injuries and disorders of the muscles, nerves, tendons, ligaments, joints, cartilage and spinal discs. Examples include carpal tunnel syndrome, rotator cuff tendonitits, and herniated or ruptured lumbar discs. MSDs represent a significant cost to society, companies and individuals. Direct costs related to the occurrence of an MSD in the workplace can include medical costs of treatment, higher insurance premiums, fines, and lost time.

Liberty Mutual Insurance company reported that such direct costs in 1998 came to a total of 9.8 billion dollars. When combined with indirect costs, Liberty Mutual assessed the total economic burden to be between $125 and $155 billion.

Using ergonomics principles and establishing programs to address the problem and cost of MSDs has proven to be very effective. Some examples are given below:

AT&T Global Workstation improvements, training, conveyor system changes. Health care costs reduced $1.48 million from 1990-1994.
3M Implementation of full scale MSD program A 22% decrease in OSHA recordable cases, a 58% decrease in lost-time cases.
Four different nursing homes Implementation of full scale MSD program One facility saw premiums drop from $1.5 million to $770,000 while lost work days fell from 573 to 12 over four years, another facility saw premiums drop from $750,000 to $184,000.
Sysco Food Services Implementation of full scale MSD program In one year injuries and illnesses were reduced by 25% and their related costs were reduced by 45%. Back injuries dropped from 76 to 21.
Perdue Farms’ Implementation of full scale MSD program So successful that 6 plants had no lost time injuries in 1996.
Fieldcrest-Cannon Worker involvement in ergonomics interventions. Cut MSDs from 121 in 1993 to 21 in 1996.

This article is a partial excerpt from Ergoweb’s Applied Workplace Ergonomics Manual.