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70% Time-Off Drop: 3M Shows How

And now 3M has made public its Web site to share ergonomic information. Just click on www.3m.com/cws/selfhelp/index.html.

The site stemmed from 3M’s efforts to beef up its own ergonomics program. When 3M computerized its system for reporting injuries and illnesses, some surprising statistics hit the screen. Between 35% and 50% of injuries were ergonomics related—more than expected.

These numbers generated a new approach to ergonomics. Previously, the company dispatched ergonomics experts when a specific problem surfaced. Now 3M deploys proactive tactics: Teams were trained to examine jobs for potential problems and develop solutions. The ergonomics staff also began to work with its engineering group to design production lines and build or buy equipment. 3M also established "solutions centers," where model workstations showcase ergonomic products and offer a hands-on demonstration.

The payoff: Since 1993, there’s been a 70% decrease in time-off cases related to ergonomic injuries, reports Tom Albin, manager of ergonomics services in 3M’s office supply division. Savings in workers’ compensation have been "substantial."

An ergonomics program pays off in other ways, adds Albin. Case in point: 3M conducted a study with a telemarketing company that suffered from attendance problems. The study examined two groups: employees who had numerous improvements made to their workstations and a control group. When final numbers were crunched, attendance for the ergonomics group was 13% higher than the control group.

Ergonomics programs can boost productivity 15% to 25%, adds Albin.

Writer: TJ Becker