What is Ergonomics and Why Does it Matter?


a professional woman sitting at her desk typing on her keyboard

If you ask 100 people what they think ergonomics means, you will probably get a different answer from every one of them. Most of the answers would be right because ergonomics is simply about workers doing their job accurately, safely and in comfort.


What is Ergonomics?

Ergonomics comes from the Greek words ‘ergon’ meaning work and ‘nomos’ meaning laws.

Ergonomics is the equipment and tools designed for workers to increase productivity and efficiency while reducing discomfort and fatigue. Ergonomics can make a workplace safer and reduce costs.

An ergonomic workspace can include adjustable workstations and computers, ergonomic chairs and a footrest under the desk. It allows workers to remain comfortable with temperature control, air conditioning, adjustable lighting and easy to access storage solutions. Everything is at a comfortable distance to reduce stress and strain and minimise the need for workers to twist, bend and reach.

In an ergonomically poor workplace staff can experience:

  • Unnecessary reaching
  • Strain on the body and eyes
  • Contact pressure
  • Uncomfortable posture
  • Vibration exposure
  • Poor air quality


Why Does Ergonomics Matter?

Organisations should take ergonomics seriously. Not only are staff at risk of experiencing an injury, but also the cost of lost productivity every year is significant.

Health of Workers

An employer is responsible for the physical and mental well-being of employees while they are at work. When workplaces are poorly designed, staff are at risk, particularly of musculoskeletal injuries. Making simple small changes can make a significant reduction in risk to workers.

Productivity Improvements with Ergonomic Workplaces

An ergonomically designed workplace takes into account the tasks staff need to do on a regular basis. If a staff member needs to walk to a storage area and reach for files on a daily basis, then it’s likely no one has considered the wasted time in leaving her workstation every day not to mention the risk factors involved in reaching well above her head for heavy items.

Ergonomics improve staff output and increase profits. Staff can’t work at their ultimate speed and efficiency if they are uncomfortable or fatigued and productivity ceases if they sustain an injury.

Ergonomics can Improve Staff Morale

A well-designed, aesthetically pleasing work environment can do wonders for staff satisfaction levels and morale. Staff members that feel appreciated are more likely to stay with their employer longer than a worker that doesn’t. Even a slight reduction in turnover can have a significant impact on an organisation’s costs.

Staff appreciate when their employer considers their individual needs. Examples of buying custom equipment can be as simple as an extra high sit-stand desk for a tall worker, a heavy-duty chair for heavier employees over 145 kg, or a vertical mouse for a worker with a sore wrist.

The Cost of Workplace Injuries

Without even considering the human toll an injury can have on a worker, their friends and family, injuries are expensive. According to Safe Work Australia, the cost of workplace injury and disease in 2013 was $61.8 billion including direct costs like workers’ compensation and indirect costs such as lost productivity. The most common injuries related to traumatic joint, ligament and muscle, and tendon injuries which accounted for almost 44% of all serious injuries in the workplace. An ergonomically-designed workplace could have prevented a large number of these injuries.

When an employee is injured, and off work, the organisation needs to find a replacement temporary staff member, train them in the role and wait weeks for them to improve their productivity while they learn on the job. The injured worker makes a compensation claim which increases premiums. If the injury is serious, they may need to be redeployed to another role which incurs training costs. This US government calculator gives you an estimate of the impact an occupational injury or illness has on a company’s profitability.

If you would like advice on ergonomic equipment to suit your workers, call one of our experts on (08) 9240 7066 or contact us online.