You may already know that strenuous or repetitive activities at work can lead to injuries and disorders like carpal tunnel syndrome and tendonitis. These types of injuries are called workplace-related musculoskeletal disorders, or WMSDs, and can cover a range of conditions characterized by pain, swelling, or tenderness in the joints, muscles, tendons, or nerves (Turner, n.d.). WMSDs are one of the most common threats to workforce productivity, accounting for up to one third of all illnesses and injuries causing lost time from work (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2013).
There are a few important risk factors for WMSDs. People who perform activities that are repetitive, awkward, or strenuous while at work are particularly at risk. Although everyone from office workers to nurses to electricians can suffer from WMSDs, the three industries in which these types of injuries are most common are construction, manufacturing, and transportation (SHARP, n.d.).
The good news is that the risk of WMSDs can be greatly mitigated with the implementation of a few simple preventative measures.
Tips for Employers
As an employer, your role is to make your workers as safe as possible while at work by adhering to provincial health and safety guidelines and taking any extra measures you feel are necessary to protect your employees. Guidelines about how best to incorporate ergonomics and other safe practices can be found here. Here are some things you can do to reduce the risk of lost time at work and workers’ compensation claims from WMSDs:
- Ensure your employees are thoroughly and properly trained on safe practice at work.
- Recommend frequent stretching.
- Rotate employees from job to job, ensuring that the same muscle groups are not engaged for extended periods of time.
- Ensure your employees have adequate rest breaks spaced throughout their shifts.
Tips for Employees
The employee also has an individual responsibility to prevent WMSDs. There are several steps you can take as an employee to protect yourself against these common workplace injuries.
- Always use tools and equipment that comfortably fit the shape of your hand. Ill-fitting tools can cause bruising and other compression injuries, and can easily slip from your grip and cause dangerous accidents.
- Use proper lifting techniques when lifting heavy loads: lift with your legs, keep your back straight, and hold the object close to your body.
- Avoid repetition: if possible, switch up your routine by rotating jobs that use different muscle groups.
- Stretch frequently. Most experts recommend engaging in a stretching routine four times daily (Turner, n.d.).
- Take “micro-pauses” of around 5-15 seconds every 3-6 minutes. These micropauses can reduce pain and tension, and are more effective than resting to recover after the exertion when taken consistently throughout the workday.
- Reduce your intake of FAT CATS (fats, caffeine, alcohol, tobacco, and sugar).
- Maintain a healthy body weight and active lifestyle. Consider joining a gym to help strengthen your muscles and build up endurance.
As always, knowledge is the best defense when it comes to preventing injuries at work. WMSDs can harm employees and reduce productivity, so you must ensure that you are doing everything you can to keep your workplace safe and productive!
Learn about SureHire’s pre-employment fitness-to-work testing here.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2013, June 7). Workers’ compensation claims for musculoskeletal disorders among wholesale and retail trade industry workers – Ohio, 2005-2009. Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/mm6222a2.htm
SHARP. (n.d.). Identifying high risk industries for WMSDs. Safety & Health. Retrieved from http://www.lni.wa.gov/safety/research/wmsd/indriskwmsd/default.asp
Turner, W. E. (n.d.). Prevention of work related musculoskeletal disorders (WMSD)* — An evidence based approach. Wellnomics. Retrieved from http://wellnomics.com/support/research/white-papers/prevention-of-work-related-musculoskeletal-disorders-wmsd-an-evidence-based-approach