2-3 paragraphs to answer each discussion.
I believe the ergonomics requirement should be mandated, on behalf of the employer, to the extent that measures taken meet the minimum policies and procedures laid out by OSHA. Sloan and Witney (2010) discuss a study by the National Academy of Sciences in 2001 placing the annual cost of repetitive motion and related injuries (musculoskeletal problems) at $50 billion. This should stress a proactive approach by employers in not only internal risk management efforts but also by incorporating ergonomic methods in their functional work spaces to curtail these costs. Fernandez (1995) proclaims the application of ergonomic principles in the workplace lead to increased productivity, lower worker compensation claims, increased work quality, lower worker turnover and improved morale. To the employer it may be viewed as a hindrance through additional oversight and unneeded costs but it should be approached as a worthwhile insurance policy in both protecting the employees’ health as well as in future product output and profits. “Management should define clear goals and objectives for the ergonomic process, discuss them with their workers, assign responsibilities to designated staff members, and communicate clearly with the workforce” (OSHA, 2021). The National Labor Relations Board mandates such safety aspects to be discussed in all collective bargaining agreements but a clear definition should be made between reasonable and specific measures that must be taken. Union leadership can also be proactive in the training aspect of ergonomics in the workplace, without proper orientation and training, many of these operating systems can be equally dangerous to the untrained operator. According to Sloan and Witney (2010), joint union-management safety committees can be formed to discuss and oversee these functions. This collaborated effort demonstrates that both parties are equally vested in this cause and that the long term benefits far exceed the short term costs.
I’ve personally seen the use of ergonomics in action when touring a hometown John Deere plant in northeast Iowa where an old high school friend of mine was a utility worker within an assembly line building an entire section of one of their tractor models. As a utility it meant he could fill any one of the workers position if they had to take a break, all of the work processes were relatively compartmentalized. Though it was open space for the worker to perform his or her duties, ample space was provided for each work flow with a significant level of protection and limited mechanical function of machinery to prevent injuries or equipment damages. There is added costs to add such features but again the cost-benefit ratio can justify the expense. In the long run I could clearly see how such measures reduce injuries, saves costs to both the employer and employee in health insurance claims and increases product accuracy and output.
I believe that the actions of employers in regards to ergonomics should be mandatory in any situation where workers are completing a task that can be proven to cause any long term health concerns. It is fair to say that any workplace will have its share of repetitive tasks that could lead to health concerns. Whether in manual labor or sitting at a desk, there are always some improvements to be made within the framework of a job that can benefit the workers well being. For example, I work at a job where I spend nearly all of my time sitting in front of a computer screen. My employer offers standing or transition desks that allow me to shift my time between sitting down or standing. On top of this they provide great vision insurance to help pay for the inevitable eye issues that will arise from looking at a screen all day. They also offer a number of health and safety training to make me more aware of practices I can incorporate in my work to not strain myself (taking screen breaks, going on a walk, etc.)
Something else to consider in the workplace related to ergonomics is workplace accidents. Accidents have a lasting economic and social impact on companies and their employees. A study done in 2019 researched the impact that ergonomic plans have on common workplace accidents. The conclusion of this study showed that in workplaces without ergonomic plans or measures accidents are more likely to occur. Whether the work being done is manual or at a desk the results of the study show that the stress on employees in an environment without an ergonomic plan leads to higher probability of accidents in the workplace (Lopez, et al., 2019).
Based on the study and my own personal experience, I am led to believe that some sort of mandatory action should be taken by employers to preserve the safety of its employees. Adding to this, it seems that an employer who takes stake and effort to protect its employees leads to a better workplace culture. Working in an environment where employees safety is not the top or a major concern of the employer would not be supportive of a long term career. It’s like in a team sport when an official makes a bad call against a player (employee). The first person to contest the call should be the coach(employer). If the employer doesn’t have your back it’s tough to continue to work for them.