In Canada and the United States musculoskeletal disorders (MSD) account 30-60 percent of all nonfatal occupational injury and illness cases each year. The direct cost of these injuries is about $20 billion annually. (OSHA and Workers Health and Safety Centre Federation of Ontario)
Know the Risks
A musculoskeletal disorder (MSD) or injury (MSI) is an injury or disorder of the muscles, tendons, ligaments, joints, nerves, blood vessels or related soft tissue. Workers in many different industries and occupations can be exposed to risk factors. Exposure to these risk factors increases a worker’s risk of injury.
Five Common Risk Factors
- Lifting heavy items
- Bending and reaching overhead
- Pushing and pulling heavy loads
- Working in awkward body positions
- Performing tasks repetitively
Be a Better Supervisor
Implementing an ergonomic program and process for reporting ergonomic issues associated with manual materials handling is effective in reducing the risk of developing MSDs. This program is also beneficial in high-risk industries as diverse as construction, food processing, firefighting, office jobs, healthcare, transportation and warehousing. 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 program. 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.
- Identify Problems – An ergonomic assessment is a smart place to start to identify tasks, processes, and activities that are potential ergonomic issues.
- Involve Workers – Workers who are directly involved in worksite assessments, solution development and implementation is the essence of a successful program. Workers can:
- Identify and provide important information about hazards.
- Assist in the ergonomic process by voicing their concerns and suggestions for reducing exposure to risk factors and by evaluating the changes made because of an ergonomic assessment.
- Provide Training – Training ensures 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 and how to report them.
- 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 to Control Hazards – Forklifts, pallet movers, conveyors, self-adjusting tables, pallet wrappers and a host of other mechanical aids are available to remove or reduce the hazards of manually moving materials.
- Evaluate Progress – Evaluation and corrective action procedures are required to periodically assess the effectiveness of the program and to ensure its continuous improvement and long-term success. As an ergonomic program is first developing, assessments should include determining whether goals set for the program have been met and determining the success of the implemented ergonomic solutions.