Proper ergonomics is critical in today’s manufacturing industry. The result of continually exerting the same muscles or ligaments repeatedly over time can lead to long and drawn out claims. However, the number and severity of Musculoskeletal Disorders (MSDs) resulting from workplace overexertion, and their associated costs, can be substantially reduced by applying effective ergonomic principles.
Many MSD cases are injuries that compounds over time. MSDs affects the muscles, nerves, blood vessels, ligaments, and tendons. Workers can be exposed to hazards that can contribute or lead to MSDs at work. These activities can include lifting heavy items, bending, reaching overhead, pushing and pulling heavy loads, working in awkward body positions, and performing the same tasks repetitively.
Workplace induced MSDs can be prevented. Ergonomics, defined as fitting a job to a person, can help lessen muscle fatigue, increase productivity, and can help greatly reduce the number of work-related MSDs. Some examples of these injuries include carpal tunnel syndrome, tendinitis, rotator cuff injuries, muscle strains, and low back injuries. All of these injuries can lead to a painful life for the employee and much higher costs for the employer.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics maintains that MSD cases account for 1/3 of all worker injury and illness cases. Implementing an ergonomic process is effective in reducing the risk of developing MSDs in high-risk industries. When assessing what constitutes an effective ergonomic approach, the following are critical elements to consider in the workplace:
- Commitment by management is crucial to the overall success of the ergonomic process.
- Management should define clear expectations and objectives for the ergonomic process, provide adequate resources to engage with their workforce, and delegate responsibilities to assigned staff.
- Workers should be involved in workplace audits. Workers can provide important information about hazards in their workplaces and assist in the ergonomic process by voicing their suggestions for reducing exposure to certain risks that can lead to MSDs.
- Proper ergonomic training ensures that workers are aware of ergonomics and its benefits and are aware of the early signs of MSDs.
- Identify and assess ergonomic problems in the workplace before they result in MSDs.
- Early reporting of MSDs can accelerate the job assessment and improvement process, while helping to prevent or reduce the progression of symptoms, the development of serious injuries, and subsequent time loss claims.
- Mitigating workplace hazards can help reduce, control or eliminate workplace MSDs.
- Established evaluation and corrective action procedures are needed to assess the effectiveness of the ergonomic process and to ensure its continuous improvement.
Ergonomics is often an afterthought when thinking of safety principles. Employers should ensure ergonomics are incorporated into all processes. Preventing workplace injuries deriving from poor ergonomics will save time, money, and employees. Proactivity is essential in preventing Musculoskeletal Disorders in the workplace so, keep a keen eye and ear out for employee feedback.
If you would like further information on how to implement a sound ergonomic work environment, please contact your Safety and Loss Control Consultant for more information. Have a safe day!