In 2000, OSHA estimated that every $1 out of every $3 that was spent on workers’ compensation claims were from an ergonomic issue which affected them at work. The direct cost of musculoskeletal disorders caused by a lack of ergonomics were listed at $20 billion, with total annual costs rising to $54 billion.
Rules were drafted in 1992, with the first standards published in 1995, to create a greater emphasis on workplace ergonomics. Those standards were enforced beginning in 2001 for a total of two months. President George W. Bush repealed them as one of his first acts in office.
That has not stopped OSHA from offering best practices and guidelines to support better ergonomics in the workplace. The reason for this is simple: when an employee requires time off because of an injury related to ergonomics, they take an average of 11 days to recover. Non-ergonomics related injuries require an average recovery time of 8 days.
Interesting Ergonomics Industry Statistics
#1. Ergonomics-related injuries accounted for over 380,000 days-away-from-work cases in 2013, which was the last year data was made available. That means 1 in every 3 cases are because of an ergonomics issue. (Bureau of Labor Statistics)
#2. Carpel tunnel syndrome may affect as many as 1.9 million people in the United States. Doctors perform up to 500,000 surgeries each year to correct this issue. (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention [CDC])
#3. In 2001, there were almost 27,000 CTS cases which involved days away from work, averaging 25 days away, compared to just 6 days for all non-fatal illnesses and injuries. (Bureau of Labor Statistics)
#4. Two occupational groups account for 70% of all CTS cases that are recorded each year: administrative, sales, and technical support and operators, fabricators, and laborers. (CDC)
#5. 79% of the back injury cases which occur in work-related environments are suffered by workers in the 25-54 age demographic. 64% of these injuries are suffered by men. (Bureau of Labor Statistics)
#6. 86% of office workers say that they have experienced soreness or strain because of their office equipment or furniture. (Staples Business Resource Center)
#7. 71% of office workers say that their chair has caused them back pain at some point in time. (Staples Business Resource Center)
#8. 74% of office workers say that using their keyboard contributes to either a wrist strain or an injury while completing their work duties. (Staples Business Resource Center)
#9. 41% of workers complain about having neck pain because of the design of their personal working space. (Staples Business Resource Center)
#10. 34% of all lost workdays in the United States are due to a musculoskeletal injury or related illness that was due to poor ergonomics. (Staples Business Resource Center)
#11. The total lifetime cost of an injured worker with carpal tunnel syndrome is $30,000. In total, injuries that are from a musculoskeletal disorder will cost employers in the United States more than $20 billion each year. (Staples Business Resource Center)
#12. Over 30% of workers say that having an ergonomic workspace would improve their mood while they are at work. 50% say that ergonomic workspaces would help them be more productive. Two-thirds say it would improve their posture. (Staples Business Resource Center)
#13. 35% of workers who don’t have an ergonomic environment at work say that they would feel less stress if they had access to products offered by the industry. (Staples Business Resource Center)
#14. 44% of companies in the United States are either subsidizing or providing standing desks for their employees. In 2013, only 13% of employers were providing that type of benefit. (Star Tribune)
#15. Only 2% of workers in the United States are currently using a sit-to-stand desk on a regular basis to complete their work duties. (Star Tribune)
#16. Motorized desks which rise or fall based on push-button action retail for up to $3,000. Standard desks which require cranking or hand movements retail between $200 to $400 for most models. (Star Tribune)
#17. There were between 400,000 and 600,000 treadmill desks sold from 2007 to 2015. Steelcase was the first commercial manufacturer of this product, selling up to 70,000 of the desks at an average price of $4,000. (Work While Walking)
#18. The entire market size for office desks and tables is about $1.1 billion. (BIFMA)
#19. School furniture that is built with ergonomics in mind is expected to grow at a CAGR of 15% through 2020. (Technavio)
#20. Storage-related furniture items hold a 18.6% share of the school furniture market, even though electronic storage continues to increase in popularity in educational settings. (Technavio)
#21. Office furniture manufacturing is an industry which is valued at $27 billion. Over the past 5 years, the industry has grown at an average rate of 1.4%, while the number of businesses has grown by 1.8% and employee growth has reached 2.4%. (IBIS World)
#22. About 120,000 people are directly employed in the manufacturing of office furniture, including ergonomic options. (IBIS World)
Ergonomics Industry Trends and Analysis
The ergonomics industry faces a unique trend. It creates products which are based on available research, then experiences a rejection of that research after releasing items to the market. In 2001, ergonomic chairs, keyboards, and desks looked to become major sellers for the industry, only to see a rejection of OSHA standards lead to lower sales.
A similar trend occurred in recent years for the sit-to-stand desks. Research discovered that studies linking health benefits to this type of office furniture only provided low-quality evidence for support.
Times may be changing, however, as 58% of workers say that their companies ae using standing desks in some capacity. What many may not realize is that the inventor of the office cubicle, Herman Miller Inc. originally called for sit-stand desks that would allow people to move around. Cubilces were not meant to be a stationary office.
There will always be a place for ergonomics. Whether treating workers with injuries or preventing new ones, a fast-paced world requires mobility. The ergonomics industry is able to provide that.