The budget process is an annual or monthly endeavor for companies to plan for purchases, services, and staff needs. However, one important cost allocation is routinely missing.
Often, I’ll hear prospects shopping for ergonomics services say, “We don’t have a budget for ergonomics.”
Sadly, most employers don’t have a line item or planned budget for ergonomics programs and training. Yet doing so would make tremendous sense, given our reliance on technology, remote work, and the exposure to musculoskeletal disorders (MSD) associated with prolonged sitting and computer use.
In addition, budgeting and investing in ergonomics services and equipment can result in a big payoff for your organization. Typically, you can expect to save $4.40 to $10.00 for every dollar invested. And for every injury avoided, you can save up to $42,000 as well as drive down your insurance premium costs!
Few organizational expenditures offer a return on investment like ergonomics. Even more reason to include ergonomics process services and expenses in your corporate budget.
Who is responsible for the ergonomics budget?
Is it department managers of EH&S, Facilities, Purchasing, or IT; the accounting team; corporate executives; or Board of Directors?
In any company, different people handle the organization’s budget. But who is responsible for ergonomics and, if so, are they permitted to budget for the ergonomics needs of the company? And is that budget limited to a few thousand dollars or robust based on a culture of safety, well-being, and a desire for continuous improvement in building an innovative company?
What do they know about ergonomics?
Whoever is buying ergonomics services should have a thorough understanding of the depth and breadth of ergonomics needed for the organization. Their knowledge and experience with ergonomics will influence whether they value investing in ergonomics and how much should be allocated.
Has the CFO or department manager ever had an ergo evaluation or suffered a work injury? Have they interacted with someone devastated by a significant lost-time MSD injury that affected work productivity? Have they participated in ergonomics training led by an ergonomics professional? Have they walked the halls to see the old, worn, misfit chairs or desk converters not being used properly? Have they seen images of employee home offices, which are often little more than a kitchen chair and table, at which employees work for months at a time?
Often those responsible for budgeting ergonomics, in the C-suite or middle management, are far removed from the value and impact of ergonomics. Yet, they are developing the budget that will change employee health, safety, and well-being more so than every other investment made.
When ergonomic expenses are hidden in the IT, Purchasing, Facilities, or HR budget, organizations lose the ability to track the results of ergonomic investments on employees. In contrast, tracking direct ergonomics expenses under “one roof” or one department, when possible, makes far more sense and aids with forecasting future ergonomics operating expenses.
At best, the designated ergonomics specialist should have close contact and budget discussions with those departments that purchase ergonomics training, equipment and furnishings considered ergonomic. This includes HR or Learning and Development for ergonomics assessments and training, IT for keyboards, mice, monitor arms, monitors, and laptops plus Facilities or Purchasing for electric desks, chairs, and more.
Ten strategies to prepare an ergonomics budget
Employ these ten strategies to develop an annual ergonomics budget for your company.
Estimated costs are provided for reference based on ergonomics marketplace averages and are subject to variation depending on provider.
- Bundle ergonomics with wellness programs. Many companies are now investing in wellness programs. If you are budgeting for wellness to promote well-being, bundle in ergonomics. Ergonomics begets well-being.
- Understand the cost of your workers’ compensation claims, the frequency and type of claims and trends. The average cost of a work injury is $42,000, according to NCCI (National Council on Compensation Insurance) reports. Work with your insurer to determine the average cost of your medical-only and lost-time musculoskeletal claims. Share your loss run total claims and costs, average cost per claim with your ergonomics specialist or health and safety team. These lagging indicators supply deep insight into the ergonomics strategies necessary to reverse engineer your injury causations and the budget necessary to do it.
- Use injury losses during the month and early reporting to predict the need for new ergonomic evaluations. For each musculoskeletal claim or preventive evaluation requested, expect to perform an ergonomic evaluation, and implement corrective actions from ergonomic accessories to quick fixes to engineering investments. Our studies show an average of $625 to $1,100 per person for corrective actions is ideal, not including the evaluation costs.
- Anticipate the number of ergonomic evaluations you will perform monthly based on an early symptoms request process, and loss run history. Budget for preventive evals, workers compensations, non-occupational medical, and even ADA accommodation evaluations. Budget the following:
- Preventive evaluations: $350-$495 per evaluation.
- Workers’ compensation evaluations: $750 and up (often paid by insurer if medically prescribed).
- Non-occupational medical evaluations: $750 and up.
- ADA reasonable accommodation: $1500 and up.
- Industrial evaluations: $5,000 and up depending on complexity and goals.
- Set aside a budget for office, remote and other ergonomics training for all employees. Make this training mandatory, online, and self-paced to help prevent injuries and increase employee accountability. Budget a minimum of $75-$150 per person. Use ergonomics training and self-assessments to encourage early identification of signs and symptoms, self-care, and self-correction to reduce the need for preventive evaluations and avoid claims.
- Avoid a transactional approach to ergonomics. Set aside a budget for ergonomics expertise and consultation, including leadership training, in setting up your organization’s ergonomics process design and ongoing management. Suggested investment: $30,000 or more.
- Budget for in-house expertise training. Small to midsize employers should have at least one internal certified ergonomics specialist . A minimum of 24-32 hours of training is recommended to enable this person to perform a competent preventive evaluation and recommend correct solutions. Budget $2,500-$3500 for office ergonomics specialist training.
- Pay attention to your organization’s chairs. Poor chair health directly impacts employee musculoskeletal health and comfort. Inventory and assess your chairs to decide whether to keep, repair, or replace them under a preventive maintenance program. Many companies either don’t replace chairs when needed or replace when they don’t have to. There is a science to sitting, chair assessment, selection, and fit. Understanding which chairs need to be replaced is valuable to your budget planning process.
- Budget for sit-to-stand retrofits and electric desks purchases. Avoid desk converters. From the preventive and workers compensation evaluations, trends should be identified as to what equipment is needed. Many employers do not analyze this information and just purchase on a case-by-case basis.
- Budget for ergonomics software such as self-assessments, database, and metric trackers to support your process and measure your outcomes, cost benefit and ROI.
Every company needs an ergonomics budget!
The science of ergonomics has been part of the industrial world for over 70 years. Yet, there is one trend that has persisted: a noticeable lack of companies budgeting explicitly for ergonomics in the workplace. This includes a specific budget for ergonomics services (consulting, training, and analysis), ergonomic furniture, chairs, and many popular accessories such as keyboards, pointing devices, monitor arms, and other essential equipment.
What is your ergonomics budget process like? Do you have a specific budget, or do you think you should? Comment and share below.
To learn more about budgeting for an ergonomics process for your organization and the value you can achieve, watch our seminar on ergonomics process design and management.
- Heller-Ono, Alison, A Prospective Study of a Macroergonomics Process over Five Years Demonstrates Significant Prevention of Workers’ Compensation Claims Resulting in Projected Savings.