Musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) affect the muscles, nerves, blood vessels, ligaments and tendons. Workers in many different industries and occupations can be exposed to risk factors at work, such as lifting heavy items, bending, reaching overhead, pushing and pulling heavy loads, working in awkward body postures and performing the same or similar tasks repetitively. Exposure to these known risk factors for MSDs increases a worker’s risk of injury.
Work-related MSDs can be prevented. Ergonomics — fitting a job to a person — helps lessen muscle fatigue, increases productivity and reduces the number and severity of work-related MSDs. The number and severity of MSDs resulting from physical overexertion, and their associated costs, can be substantially reduced by applying ergonomic principles. The following are important elements of an ergonomic process:
- Provide Management Support – A strong commitment by management is critical to the overall success of an ergonomic process.
- Involve Workers – A participatory ergonomic approach, where workers are directly involved in worksite assessments, solution development and implementation, is the essence of a successful ergonomic process.
- Provide Training – Training is an important element in the ergonomic process. It ensures that workers are aware of ergonomics and its benefits, become informed about ergonomics related concerns in the workplace, and understand the importance of reporting early symptoms of MSDs.
- Identify Problems – An important step in the ergonomic process is to identify and assess ergonomic problems in the workplace before they result in MSDs.
- Encourage Early Reporting of MSD Symptoms – Early reporting can accelerate the job assessment and improvement process, helping to prevent or reduce the progression of symptoms, the development of serious injuries and subsequent lost-time claims.
- Implement Solutions – There are many possible solutions that can be implemented to reduce, control or eliminate workplace MSDs.
- Evaluate Progress – Established evaluation and corrective action procedures are required to periodically assess the effectiveness of the ergonomic process and to ensure its continuous improvement and long-term success.
An ergonomic process uses the principles of a safety and health program to address MSD hazards. Such a process should be viewed as an ongoing function that is incorporated into the daily operations, rather than as an individual project. CLICK HERE to learn more.
Read Success Stories submitted to OSHA or based on information obtained by OSHA from secondary sources from employers who have implemented ergonomics programs or utilized best practices and have reported successful results.