Risk assessments, training and regular medical surveys can prevent & mitigate them.
Ergonomics is defined as the science of how “people and things interact most efficiently and safely.”[i] When we speak of ergonomic injuries we’re really talking the myriad musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) that result from poorergonomics – back injuries, carpal tunnel syndrome, rotator cuff injuries, to name a few.
The economic and human toll of work-related MSDs is immense: they are among the most frequent causes of lost work time, accounting for about one-third of worker injury and illness cases in the United States.[ii] Direct costs of MSDs to U.S. businesses are $20 billion a year and total costs (including lower quality work, absenteeism, etc.) are estimated at up to $54 billion. [iii]
Workers in virtually all industries and occupations are at risk – the constantly typing secretary; the production worker repeating the same motion; the material mover lifting heavy items.
Because of their nature, MSDs tend to be harder to “prove” (unlike a broken bone they cannot be seen on an X-ray or MRI). They also take longer to longer to diagnose and longer to treat. For companies, MSDs can be very expensive in terms of lost productivity, worker compensation claims and insurance costs.
That’s the bad news. The good news is that the causes of ergonomics-related MSDs are well understood and largely preventable. The old phrase “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” is especially true regarding MSDs. Giving employees the right tools and training – good ergonomics – can dramatically reduce MSDs in both number and severity.
For office workers the prevention of carpel tunnel may be as simple as desk height, monitor height, and a new mouse. In an industrial setting the solution might involve vibration-reducing gloves for workers who use vibrating tools frequently.
Another way to discover risks early is through regular medical surveys (one expert recommended every three year).[iv] These surveys can uncover early signs of damage, resulting in early treatment for affected workers and early implementation of ergonomic solutions. Company-wide employee wellness programs can also raise awareness of overall good health practices (sleep, diet, exercise, proper lifting techniques, proper poster, etc).
- Musculoskeletal (MSDs) affect the muscles, nerves, blood vessels, ligaments and tendons.
- MSDs account for one-third of all worker injury and illness cases in the United States.
- Direct costs of MSDs to U.S. businesses are $20 billion a year; total costs (including lost productivity, absenteeism, etc.) is estimated to be up to $54 billion.
- Particularly at risk are production workers; freight, stock and material movers; stock clerks and order fillers; maintenance and repair workers.
- Examples of MSDs include:
- Carpal tunnel syndrome
The Catalyst Group’s Consultants have extensive experience in conducting workplace evaluations to assess ergonomic risks and devise solutions. If you want to learn more about how The Catalyst Group can help your company, please contact us.
[i]Merriam-Webster Dictionary https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/ergonomics
[iii]Costs of occupational musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) in the United States, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, https://www.cdc.gov/niosh/nioshtic-2/20044181.html
[iv]Association between vibration exposure and hand-arm vibration symptoms in a Swedish mechanical industry, International Journal of Industrial Ergonomics, https://ac.els-cdn.com/S0169814117300951/1-s2.0-S0169814117300951-main.pdf?_tid=71aa7426-c5d3-410c-818c-ffdde3fa884f&acdnat=1525591219_da85316c54591072bd3906b49ea79266