By Liz Alton
The impact of ergonomics in the workplace shouldn't be understated: According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), musculoskeletal disorders are among the most frequently reported causes of absenteeism from work. Ergonomics — "fitting the job to the person," as OSHA puts it — can significantly reduce that problem.
Your procurement strategy can play a major role in improving the long-term health of your coworkers. While you may currently get involved with worker ergonomics requests on a case-by-case basis, building an ergonomics-focused mindset into your work can create company-wide improvements and mitigate many musculoskeletal health issues before they reach more serious stages.
Here are some strategies to get started:
Request a Professional Assessment
When it comes to choosing ergonomic products, different parts of your organization likely have different needs. For example, a desk worker might need to emphasize maintaining proper posture and reducing glare from computer screens, while a factory floor worker would focus on avoiding forceful exertion and making their environment safe.
An ergonomics expert can help you assess the biggest challenges for your workforce and recommend solutions that work with your budget. You may not even need to hire an outside specialist — ask your furniture supplier to send an expert to evaluate whatever situation you're facing, whether it's for an individual employee or to suggest holistic solutions across an organization.
Prioritize Ergonomic Choices
The solutions to ergonomics issues are often simple: choosing an ergonomic keyboard over more conventional options, for example, or supplying document stands in case employees need to spend long hours reviewing paper documents.
Investing in these solutions as part of your basic office setup — and making sure your approved vendor lists include suppliers that offer ergonomic product options — can head off issues before they occur.
Implement an Ergonomics-Focused Policy
While some companies may choose to purchase items such as ergonomically friendly office chairs for all workstations, many others encourage employees to select products based on their own needs — such as choosing from a list of approved ergonomic keyboards, for instance. Evaluate your policy for its overall ergonomics focus. For example, make sure your policies don't make this process difficult for employees by setting tight spending limits, limiting approved vendors or putting up too much red tape with purchase approvals.
Common employee issues, like carpal tunnel or tendinitis, may be solved by purchasing a few basic items that work for everyone. But other employees may require special accommodation, and this must be factored into your overall procurement strategy. Develop a list of ergonomics suppliers and find a partner you can call to create a unique plan when the situation requires one.
Evaluate Solutions that Work with Your Budget
The main challenge procurement professionals face when evaluating ergonomics is cost. Some ergonomics solutions can be expensive; however, it's possible to make better choices within any price range. By working closely with the right suppliers, you can research and find solutions within your budget. For example, hydraulic standing desks may be out of the budget, but a separate standing station can often be incorporated into a traditional cubicle environment for a reasonable cost.
Procurement's role is to manage the bottom line. You understand that lost worker productivity due to injuries can cost your business a significant amount of money, so evaluate your suppliers with an eye for ergonomics. An investment in this area will likely save your organization more money in the long run.