Ergonomics is an important factor in our daily lives – both at home and at work. Most people do the same repetitive movements every day and spend a great portion of their life working. Workers spend long periods standing or sitting; developing poor posture due to unsuitable workstations. Over the long run, this can lead to discomfort, injury, and even disability.  

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, ergonomic injuries (also known as musculoskeletal disorders) make up one-third of all work-related injuries and illnesses.

The trends are concerning and costly. For instance, did you know that an estimated $1 of every $3 spent on claims for workman’s compensation in the U.S. were due to ergonomic issues? Here are a few more interesting facts:

  • Stress builds up in a healthy body after being in a single position for about 20 minutes.
  • On average, adults spend 57% of their workday standing. 
  • Neck pain will be experienced by 75% of the population at some point in their lives, and about 5% won’t be able to function normally because of it.
  • Doing frequent, repetitive motions of less than 30 seconds for 50% of your work time leads to higher chances of developing ergonomic injuries.
  • Nearly 2 million American workers suffer from ergonomics-related or MSD injuries every year. 
  • Healthcare is the number one industry most at risk of ergonomic injuries.

In this article, we share some important ergonomic injury statistics you need to know.

Table of Contents

Ergonomic Pain Statistics

Several factors like heavy physical activity, exposure to vibration, and static and forced body positions, lead to ergonomic-related pain.

A healthy body can only tolerate being in a single position for about 20 minutes.

Holding the same position becomes uncomfortable after some time. Stress builds up on either one’s legs or back, causing discomfort and pain.

Adults on average spend 43% sitting and 57% standing on workdays.

This is equal to thousands of hours per year that takes a toll on one’s well-being. Prolonged static positions can be detrimental to one’s health and cause different illnesses or injuries.

Lower back pain is the highest-ranked musculoskeletal condition globally.

In 2019, there were about 570 million lower back pain-related cases worldwide. It is the second top cause of disability and death in high SDI (sociodemographic index) countries.

Back injuries account for one of every five illnesses and injuries in the workplace.

More than one million workers suffer from back pains and injuries every year.

75% of the population will experience neck pain.

Neck pain can come in a variety of intensities and forms. About 5% of those who suffer from neck pains will become disabled or unable to function or work normally.

29% of injuries are caused by overexertion.

The lower back and shoulders are among the most commonly affected body parts and the most expensive injuries were head trauma, fractures, and dislocations.

Neck pain affects females more than males.

Numerous explanations such as hormonal differences and cervical disc degeneration have been proposed as to why women are more likely to suffer from neck pain than men. More often, women also have less muscular strength compared to men, thereby requiring more safety measures to minimize pain and stiffness in the neck when using computers.

Both males and females aged 45 and above have a higher risk of developing ergonomic-related illnesses or injuries.

In the UK, both males and females aged 45-54 had significantly higher rates of work-related musculoskeletal disorders compared to those aged 16-34.

Workplace Ergonomic Injury Statistics

Ergonomic hazards can easily be overlooked in the workplace when there are bigger risks or challenges present. With this, ergonomic injuries are silently affecting the workplace as they are widely common.

1.8 million American workers suffer from ergonomic-related or MSD injuries.

These often occur when the workers’ physical capabilities are no match for the physical demands of the job. Prolonged exposure to these risk factors leads to ergonomic-related or MSD injuries.

In the UK, 470,000 workers suffered from work-related musculoskeletal injuries.

In 2020/21, 16% had issues with their lower limbs, 39% on their backs, and 45% were affected in their upper limbs or neck.

65% of occupational drivers are more at risk of developing lower back pain.

Sustained whole-body vibrations experienced by drivers lead to pain and stiffness.

46% of office workers suffer from neck pain.

Anyone can have chronic neck pains but those who are heavy computer users are more at risk, mostly due to poor posture and unsuitable workstation setups.

There’s a high risk of developing an ergonomic injury if 50% of your work time consists of frequent repetitive motions of less than 30 seconds.

Repetitive movements with the same muscle groups that are done too quickly and too often for a long time can be unsafe. If continuously done, injuries can occur as  a worker will experience fatigue and will not be able to fully recover due to the short period of time between movements.

Poorly designed workspaces or environments lead to a 3% reduction in productivity.

Jobs that allow for less exertion, good posture, and ergonomic workstation improve productivity.

Ergonomic injuries account for 33% of all workers’ compensation costs.

Ergonomic-related injuries account for close to 400,000 cases, resulting in direct costs of about $20 billion per year. The indirect costs can be five times more than direct costs (lost production time, product defects, training time for new employees, etc.).

34% of all lost workdays in the U.S. are due to ergonomic-related injuries or illness.

There are about 600,000 ergonomic or MSD cases yearly that require time away from work. Workers that suffer severe injuries prevent them from handling simple day-to-day tasks or returning to their jobs.

In 2016, 14% of DALYs (Disability-adjusted life years) lost were due to occupational ergonomic factors.

The largest number of DALYs lost was due to occupational injuries followed by long working hours.

Medical Ergonomic Injury Statistics

There are numerous ergonomic stressors found in the healthcare industry that manifest into repetitive injuries or illnesses. Poor ergonomic habits and insufficient ergonomic training are common in this field.

Healthcare is the top industry for instances of musculoskeletal disorders in the workplace.

Healthcare professionals are most at risk of ergonomic injuries. Tasks such as prolonged standing, patient handling, and moving equipment contribute to higher risk levels.

Back injuries are the most frequent in the healthcare field, ranging from 30% to 60% prevalence annually.

Lower back pain has a higher prevalence among medical staff compared with other industrial workers, mostly due to poor posture and tasks that require excessive force, such as lifting and transferring patients and machines.

The nursing profession accounts for the highest rate of injuries in the healthcare industry, with over 100 injuries per 10,000 workers.

In 2016, an estimated 19,790 days away from work due to injuries were experienced by registered nurses in the private sector. Regular tasks of nurses include patient transfers and repositioning, and sitting and standing in awkward postures.

55% of  surgeons suffer the highest level of pain when standing during surgery.

48% suggested that the pain they experienced affected their work.

76% of surgeons had no initial ergonomics training.

Only about 5% of surgeons had training on ergonomics during medical school, while 8% received their training during residency.

70% of health IT professionals experienced health problems and work-related injuries associated with poor workplace ergonomics or repetitive stress.

The lack of access to ergonomic equipment and/or tools significantly contributes to the physical discomforts of those in the healthcare industry.

Ergonomic Injury Statistics FAQs

Ergonomic injuries are one of the most common work injuries encountered in the workplace and are a major risk to workers’ health. Industries with high risk for ergonomic injuries are diverse and include healthcare, office jobs, construction, transportation, and warehousing.

One can be a candidate for a serious ergonomic injury even if no preliminary symptoms of strain are showing. The onset of ergonomic injuries can be sudden or gradual. They result from tasks that are not usually harmful when the risk factor exposure is brief.

To improve people’s efficiency when it comes to how they work, there are 5 ergonomic aspects to look at. These ergonomic principles play an important role, especially in the production of goods and services.
  1. First is safety, which aims to prevent incidents and accidents by having equipment and tools that decrease the stress of doing a task. 
  2. >Having an ergonomic design that creates a more user-friendly experience like proper support and suitable temperature improves comfort. 
  3. People need to be able to complete tasks without unpleasant movements that put stress on their body (neck, back, knees, etc.) through easier operating practices or ease of use. 
  4. Performance can be improved through a proper ergonomic design that results in increased productivity.
Lastly, ergonomic aesthetics is not just about beauty; a safer and more positive environment is created if one’s workplace has accessible information on the use, function, and operating systems.

Musculoskeletal disorders are mostly caused by three primary ergonomic risk factors: posture, force, and frequency.

Sustained poor posture is perhaps the most common and well-known risk factor. When a workspace does not have the proper equipment, optimal posture can’t be maintained.

Excessive force creates fatigue and potential injuries. This is generally represented through pushing, pulling, gripping, and lifting heavy loads that add further pressure on the body’s joints.

A higher frequency of forces or awkward postures increases the risk for joint damage. A relatively simple or effortless task can put a strain on one’s body when it has been done repeatedly in a short period.

Final Thoughts

Not everyone is familiar with what ergonomics is and how it affects people. Poor ergonomics have serious consequences not only for an individual, but for an entire organization. Common accidents could be prevented if proper ergonomics are implemented in designing the jobs people do and in the systems they use.

The most important step is to identify the risk and assess your condition to determine what action needs to be taken. Ergonomics play a vital part in creating a culture of health, wellness, and safety in the workplace.

Sources

Eric Moore

Eric Moore is the owner of Overheard on Conference Calls. As a corporate veteran, he's seen and heard it all. And when it comes to office chairs, desks, and accessories, he's used it all. As a former office furniture sales rep, he bring his expertise to provide readers the knowledge to choose the right products for them.