Opening the ergonomic floodgates
For much of last year we heard commentary telling us that sitting was the new smoking – it seemed every workplace expert was declaring that our sedentary lifestyles – which included sitting in front of a computer monitor for eight hours a day – were taking years off our lives.
A plethora of products are available to encourage office workers to get off their backsides wherever possible (various designs of standing desks), as well as other ergonomic furniture and aids that have been created to increase worker activity, improve worker posture, reduce injury, and a few other benefits.
But all of this comes at a price.
How do businesses avoid opening the ‘ergonomic floodgates’ and having to provide every staff member with expensive new equipment and services – whether they need it or not? What will happen at your workplace if you provide something for one staff member but not their peers?
For instance, what happens when you get requests from staff ‘needing’ things such as:
- ergonomic assessments – because they feel they have developed a sore neck at work or have aggravated a pre-existing condition;
- adjustable standing desks; or
- specific styles of chairs.
What is your organisation’s responsibility to provide these things?
Will you open yourself up to further requests from other staff, which could lead to a huge expense to the organisation?
Michael Selinger, Editor-in-Chief of the Health & Safety Handbook, says the provision of ergonomic equipment would be considered a reasonably practicable step that an organisation could take to assist in reducing the risk of harm to staff.
“Unless the cost would be grossly disproportionate to the gravity and likelihood of the harm the ergonomic equipment seeks to control, then the organisation would need to consider providing assessments and then, depending on those assessments, appropriate ergonomic equipment,” he says.
“As cost is often a concern, organisations often look to discharge this obligation by assessing on a case-by-case basis,” Michael says.
Businesses will need to judge for themselves if actions they take now (and their associated costs) to prevent potential workplace injuries in the short- and long-term will outweigh any possible worker’s compensation and insurance claims (even potential court costs for legal disputes) and the costs of having to install ergonomic equipment if directed to after assessments at a later date.
The fully-updated chapter on Office Safety in the Health & Safety Handbook, outlines the steps business-owners can take to reduce the risk of harm to workers who predominately are seated in an office environment.
This, along with another 70-plus chapters, will help ensure that you are meeting all your legal obligations to the health and safety of your workers, regardless of which jurisdiction your business operates in or the type of business you run.
And just to make sure the Handbook is suitable for your business, you can take it for an obligation-free test drive.
What do you have to lose?