The 2008 Crisis & COVID-19: Can Ergonomics Help Now Like it Did Before?

The 2008 Great Recession, COVID-19, and Industrial Ergonomics - LTW Ergonomic Solutions

With the financial instability COVID-19 has brought into our economy, many are reminded of the 2008 “Great Recession.”

In this article, we will compare how implementation of ergonomics helped companies through the 2008 crisis, and how it can help more today.

J.M. Boakes, MBA, CRSP, CCPE, discussed the 2008 crisis in the 2019 publication of Ergonomics Canada. He mentioned that “this new volatility is a sign of an ever-changing global economy requiring innovation and agility to stay competitive… organizations must be more efficient and effective than ever while striving for continuous improvement on both of these metrics of operational performance. Enter the opportunity for ergonomics.”

In both working through an existing recession and preparing for the possibility of future ones, ergonomics can be a key factor in protecting your company’s profitability.

Recessions & Worker’s Compensation

Upon writing his article, Boakes had no idea what financial crisis our economy was to experience just a year later. Sarah Hansen from Forbes compares the data from these two recent recessions:

  • 800,000 jobs were eliminated in March 2009, during the height of the Great Recession; about 8.6 million jobs were lost in total during that entire recession. 
  • More than 20 million jobs were eliminated April 2020 alone, and more than 33 million jobs have been lost since the 2020 crisis began. 

The comparison is alarming at the least. And now that businesses are beginning to reopen, a new concern arises.

As numerous stay home orders are lifted, and millions begin to transition from unemployment back into their daily jobs, Worker’s Compensation could become a very expensive factor.

Risk Innovations discusses how recessions of the past have impacted worker’s compensation. They share how the “rate of workplace injury and subsequent Workers’ Compensation claims drops sharply during recessions and rises sharply during recoveries…”

Over the past few months, companies with temporary closings and layoffs might have been pleased to not experience their normal Worker’s Compensation costs. However, these will likely be much higher than usual as things return to a more normal state of business.

Prevention & Protection

Thankfully, highly expensive musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) and Worker’s Compensation injuries can be widely prevented by ergonomics in the industrial workplace.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration, commonly known as OSHA, wrote, “Work-related MSDs can be prevented. Ergonomics — fitting a job to a person — helps lessen muscle fatigue, increases productivity and reduces the number and severity of work-related MSDs.”

Implementation of proper ergonomics can help prevent:

  • Overexertion
  • Back Pain
  • Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
  • Tendinitis
  • Degenerative Disc Disease
  • Ruptured/Herniated Disc

Through prevention, companies can be protected from many unnecessary costs. This is crucial during recessions in preparation of financial recovery, and extremely important throughout daily business in anticipation of future hardships.

Thanks for reading!

What do you think? How has ergonomics (or a lack thereof) impacted your work? Here are a couple suggestions on what you can do to help spread the word:

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