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Introduction to Ergonomics

According to BLS, the 387,820 MSD cases accounted for 33% of all worker injury and illness cases in 2011.

What are work-related musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs)?

Musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) affect the muscles, nerves and tendons. Work related MSDs (including those of the neck, upper extremities and low back) are one of the leading causes of lost workday injury and illness. 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 Musculoskeletal Disorders are caused or made worse by the work environment. MSDs can cause severe and debilitating symptoms such as:

  • pain, numbness, and tingling
  • reduced worker productivity
  • lost time from work
  • temporary or permanent disability
  • inability to perform job tasks, and
  • an increase in workers compensation costs

MSDs are often confused with ergonomics. Ergonomics is the science of fitting workplace conditions and job demands to the capabilities of workers.

In other words, MSDs are the problem and ergonomics is a solution.

What are the risk factors for MSDs?

Risk factors for MSDs include:

  • repetitive, forceful, or prolonged exertions of the hands
  • frequent or heavy lifting, pushing, pulling, or carrying of heavy objects
  • prolonged awkward postures, and
  • vibration contribute to MSDs

Jobs or working conditions that combine risk factors will increase the risk for musculoskeletal problems. The level of risk depends on how long a worker is exposed to these conditions, how often they are exposed, and the level of exposure.

Source: OSHA

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