ergonomicsWorkers in many different industries and occupations can be exposed to risk factors for musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs). Lifting heavy items, bending, reaching overhead, pushing and pulling heavy loads, working in awkward body postures and performing the same or similar tasks repetitively have all been identified as risk factors. MSDs such as carpal tunnel syndrome, tendinitis, rotator cuff injuries, trigger finger, muscle strains and low back injuries can affect muscles, nerves, blood vessels, ligaments and tendons, resulting in chronic health issues, lost work time and associated costs.

Work-related MSDs can be substantially reduced by applying ergonomic principals. Implementing an ergonomic process is effective in reducing the risk of developing MSDs in high-risk industries as diverse as construction, food processing, firefighting, office jobs, healthcare, transportation and warehousing.

Important elements of an effective ergonomic process include:

  • Management Support – Management should define clear goals and objectives for the ergonomic process, discuss them with their workers, assign responsibilities to designated staff members and communicate clearly with the workforce.
  • Worker Involvement – A participatory ergonomic approach, where workers are directly involved in worksite assessments, solution development and implementation, is essential.
  • Training – Training 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.
  • Identifying Problems – An important step in the ergonomic process is to identify and assess ergonomic problems in the workplace before they result in MSDs.
  • Encouraging 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.
  • Implementing Solutions to Control Hazards – There are many possible solutions that can be implemented to reduce, control or eliminate workplace MSDs.
  • Evaluating 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.

Applying ergonomic principles through an organized process can be a very effective approach to reducing the number and severity of work-related MSDs.

For more information and resources, visit the OSHA Ergonomics webpage.

The OSHA Training Center is offering OSHA 2255 – Principles of Ergonomics in Irvine, CA, on October 24-26, 2016, and in Lakewood, CA, on December 12-14, 2016.