Did you know that musculoskeletal disorders are the leading cause of injury in the workplace? In 2015, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that musculoskeletal disorders account for 31% of all workers' injury cases. Musculoskeletal disorders, or MSDs, are injuries or disorders of the muscles, joints, nerves, cartilage, and spine.
Overexertion can lead to MSDs in the workplace, such as a sprained ankle or back injury. Laborers who perform repetitive motions with stocking, truck driving, factory work, and other physical tasks are especially prone to developing MSDs.
Repetitive motions are dangerous because they incorporate the same muscle groups being used over and over again. When repetitive motions are performed for a long time, the muscles in a worker's body are locked into a 'fixed' position and they expend more energy in order to get the work done.
Repetitive work is very tiring because the body doesn't have enough time to recover in between the tasks. MSD injuries can occur if the repetitive work continues when the body is fatigued. These risks become higher when production speed increases and the worker experiences stress trying to fulfill quotas.
How to Prevent Injuries from Repetitive Motions
Fortunately, there are many steps employers can take to prevent MSD injuries from repetitive motions. They can take the initiative to change policies, improve the work environment, provide better tools, and adjust work methods that are more cohesive to the human body's natural performance. Let's take a look at these solutions in a little more detail.
Company Policies: By facilitating training that educates workers about the risks, symptoms, and life-changing impacts of MSDs, workers are empowered to prevent future injuries from happening. Companies should also provide solutions that combat MSDs to their employees.
Work Environment: While certain factors are unavoidable, that should not be an excuse to have an unsafe environment. Companies can take measures to provide a safe workplace for their employees. Floor cushion pads, back braces, and ergonomically designed areas are some good examples.
Tools and Materials: For the same reasons as the work environment, companies can provide tools and materials that are healthier to the body and easier to work with. Power tools help reduce repetitive motions, while extension poles and power lifts prevent shoulder and back strain.
Work Methods: Better planning and organization leads to better performance and less risk of injuries. Workers should be scheduled adequate time for breaks and lunches in between work periods to rest their bodies. Strategies can also be used to plan the work better, such as closer delivery of materials to job sites, planning the labor ahead of time, and using the buddy system if you need help.
What can you do to prevent MSDs from repetitive motions? Both the employee and the employer have a part in prevention. Taking preventative precautions may cost more, but they reap numerous awards that include better productivity, less turnover, and greater success. Safety in the workplace is definitely worth it. If an employer refuses to aid in prevention of such injuries however, it may benefit workers to speak with an experienced attorney about their legal options.