Smart businesses aren't waiting for regulations or lawsuits to prompt action geared to preventing such repetitive-motion injuries as carpal tunnel syndrome.

At Woodpro Cabinetry, in Carbool, Mo., an ergonomics program guided by employee safety teams has reduced workers' compensation costs from $106,000 to $65,000 since 1994. David Carroll, director of safety at the 107-employee company, says the first years of the program saw workers' comp claims rise as employees began identifying injuries as being work-related. But Carroll asserts that it's better to catch the problem "while it's still tendinitis. It may seem counterproductive at first, but full-fledged carpal tunnel syndrome is far more expensive."

Carpal tunnel is an injury that commonly strikes computer workers. It's expensive to treat, but if you establish an ergonomic work space, you can help prevent it.

By taking advantage of its insurance carrier's prevention programs and training, Woodpro is keeping its ergonomics program costs down to about $5,000 a year. Employees' suggestions, such as lowering tables and rotating responsibilities, have been "simple and straightforward," says Carroll. "The employees know what feels right."