Cost of Computer Related Injury
Studies suggest that 20 percent to 25 percent of computer users worldwide, both vocational and recreational, have symptoms related to their computer activities. The first CRI “epidemic” surfaced in Australia 15 years ago and then began to show up in many other industrialized countries.
Compensation paid to victims of Repeated Strain Injury (RSI) crossed 3 million pounds in the UK in 1997. US Occupational Health and Safety Administration reported that Compensation claims totaling $ 20 billions were settled in the US in 1993 for RSI. Indirect costs totaled $100 billion that year.
According to a recent report from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, over 100,000 employees missed three to five days of work in a year due to a musculoskeletal disorder. The report also said that CRI has accounted for more than 60 percent of all occupational illnesses reported in the US since 1991.
Problems such as RSI, Low back pain, fatigue and eye strain can be easily avoided if employers provide properly adjusted equipment at workstations and draw up and implement a proper policy.
However if these problems are allowed to go uncorrected it can result in reduced productivity when tired staff either drag work or are frequently absent due to workplace injury. In serious cases this has led to claims against employers. This is usually a multiple financial burden for an employer who has to deal with reduced productivity as well as costs of defending or settling a claim when it is made.
The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) in Britain that protects people against “risks to health or safety arising out of work activities” can fine employers up to 20,000 pounds if it is proved they are not implementing the DSE directive. HSE can also bring criminal charges against such employers.
It is estimated that the cost of computer related injuries could be manifold. First, developed countries have health and safety directives that entitle them to contest claims for compensation from the employer for injuries sustained at work. Secondly there is the prospect of financial loss due to reduced productivity when workplace injuries lead to absence of staff members, and finally the loss of morale that most often spreads throughout the company when a staff member reports workplace injury.
The preliminary results of an ongoing study among over 1,200 IT professionals in Bangalore (2001-2003) suggest that over 75 percent of those studied reported CRI symptoms of varying severity. However, CRI is not treated as an occupational hazard in India, unlike developed countries such as the US, Canada and UK where a computer-related injury is compensated. There is no regulation governing the rights of computer-users and most companies do not worry about ergonomics of the work place. All this because they are not obliged to pay the employee in distress!
Preventive measures such as training workers to acquire good ergonomic habits and designing user-friendly workstations are proving to be cost effective.
Tips to Employers to avoid loss due to computer -related injuries
• Encourage your employees to bring early warning signs of computer related distress to your attention at the earliest,
• Meet with employees and discuss good ergonomic habits. Ergonomics vouch for a safer and more productive work environment.
• Ergonomics training given for every computer user will prove beneficial in the long run by reducing computer- related health risks.
A practical tip to all those working on computers for long hours is to avoid unnecessary computer usage. Any number of ergonomic changes, fancy keyboards, or stretching will not help if you are typing more than your body can handle.