A Musculoskeletal Disorder otherwise known as an MSD, is a condition in which muscles, nerves, and tendons are affected negatively. MSD's of the neck, upper extremities, and lower back, are the number one causes of a lost workday injury and illness. There are over one-hundred different Musculoskeletal Disorders affecting anywhere from tendons, to ligaments, to muscles all throughout the body.
An MSD can easily be caused by lifting too heavy of items, pushing/ pulling heavy loads, bending, and reaching overhead. These are known as risk factors, all of which cause disorders. However, an MSD doesn't have to happen in an instant, in fact they most commonly occur over a large period of time in which the body is operating in an awkward posture. Ultimately, analysis shows that the main cause of MSD's in the workplace, is the repetition of processes in which the body is improperly fitted.
The study of fitting the workplace to the employee, is known as ergonomics. Ergonomics assists in finding ways to properly and safely function in the workplace, while lowering the susceptibility to MSD's. When practiced correctly, studies have shown that ergonomics will increase productivity, lessen muscle fatigue, and, lower the number as well as the severity of work related MSD's. The industries with the highest rates of Musculoskeletal Disorders, are health care, transportation, and warehousing. MSD's can lead to a permanent annoyance in an employees life causing displeasure, discomfort, and a decrease in productivity.
Common MSD's consist of Carpal Tunnel syndrome (CTS), Osteoarthritis, Fibromyalgia, and Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA). These are commonly caused by immense physical overexertion such as lifting too heavy of an object, or an object that may not be too heavy, but is lifted too many times. RA is a rather aggressive degenerative MSD due to the fact that 40% of people with RA retract from the workforce within 5 years of their diagnosis because of their condition. It is the duty of the employees to be aware of when they are damaging themselves, and when to take a break to alleviate any encumbrance they may have attained. With proper practice of ergonomics, the number of people affected by MSD's can be greatly reduced, productivity will increase, and employees will be able to confidently work without worry of injury.
The first step in solving MSD's, is addressing what is causing the problem. This can be tackled simply by creating a strong commitment by management, to enforce and uphold proper ergonomic processes. Another way to manage MSD influence on the workplace, is to provide training. Providing an educational format to understand the danger of ergonomic malpractice, can inform employees as to how to identify potential causes to MSD's, and stress the importance of reporting any early signs of a disorder.
A good ergonomics training program will teach employees how to properly use equipment, tools, and machine controls as well as the correct way to perform job tasks. Such as work methods that allow workers to keep their joints in a neutral position while using tools requiring manual force to prevent excessive force on joints and tendons. Employers should also encourage employees to avoid forms of side-to-side twisting, and to refrain from making any quick motions with their wrists. MSD management is another important element of an effective ergonomics program. Proper MSD management focuses on early identification and evaluation of signs and symptoms of MSD's and helps eliminate or reduce the risk of developing MSD's. With compliance from both the employers, employees, and trainers, MSD's can be removed from the workplace all together.
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