by Bernard D. Nomberg, Partner, The Nomberg Law Firm
United Airlines passenger David Dao certainly did not feel comfortable being dragged off of an aircraft after the airline overbooked the flight. United asked for volunteers to de-board the plane, but when they did not get the four volunteers they were seeking, David Dao was asked to leave. After he declined to leave, security then ripped him from his seat, causing him to hit his head on the armrest, breaking his nose and giving him a concussion in the process. United had little concern for the comfort of David Dao, but what about your employer? Do they have to give some attention to your level of comfort at work? Probably so.
Ergonomics deals with the design of office furniture to increase efficiency and comfort in the working environment. Nobody likes having to sit at a desk in a stiff chair for 8 hours. Nor does anyone want to crane their neck at a computer that sits too low or too high on their desk.
According to the Occupational Health and Safety Administration, there is no requirement that your employer provide ergonomic furniture such as desks or chairs, but under the General Duty Clause § 5(a)(1), they do have an obligation to keep the workplace free and clear of hazards, which includes ergonomic hazards.
Ergonomic hazards can take different forms, but typically the hazards result in musculoskeletal disorders. Bending down, reaching overhead, heavy lifting, awkward body posture, or repetitive tasks can all be ergonomic hazards and increase chances of injury. Common sense tells us that sitting in a chair without the proper back support for 8 hours a day/5 days a week can be a significant cause of back pain—one that can be eliminated.
Implementing ergonomically sound accommodations can be daunting to employers because of the cost, however employers should have a policy for ergonomic equipment, whether it is offered to all employees universally or only to those who perform certain job tasks.
Do not be afraid to approach your employer requesting accommodations. Existing equipment can be modified, tools can be used to assist already existing equipment, or changes can be made in workplace practice. Employees provided with ergonomic equipment have a lower rate of injury, lower workers’ compensation costs, and may even have an increase in efficiency and productivity. When asking your employer about accommodations, be sure to include the risks associated with a lack of proper equipment and the options available.
For more information on keeping healthy in the workplace, check out this video with Bernard and fitness trainer Brett Andrews. Please click on the link for the video: https://youtu.be/Flc7XJjXXBc
If you do happen to get an injury due to lack of proper accommodations, contact us here at the Nomberg Law Firm and we are happy to help discuss your rights under the Alabama Workers’ Compensation Act.
 For more information on ergonomics, including a more detailed assessment, https://ergo-plus.com/workplace-ergonomics/
Bernard D. Nomberg has practiced workers’ compensation law in Alabama for more than 20 years. Bernard has earned an AV rating from Martindale-Hubbell’s peer-review rating. He has been selected a Super Lawyer by Super Lawyers Magazine as well as a Top Rated Attorney by B-Metro Magazine.