When you think of getting injured at work, falls or getting struck by equipment may be the first thing that come to mind. However, a sore back, stiff knees and numb fingers are also classified as work-related injuries and they are called musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs for short). These are injuries that affect the muscles, nerves and tendons. They include ailments such as shoulder pain, swollen hands, tingling fingers and tendinitis. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics 33% of all worker injury and illness cases in 2011 were MSD cases. Here’s why it happens and what you can do to prevent it.
What Causes This Type of Injury?
While all types of workers are affected by MSDs, the industries that reported the highest rates according to OSHA in 2011 included construction, retail and wholesale, transportation and warehousing and healthcare. Included in the agency’s top ten jobs that suffer the most from this type of injury were assemblers, truck drivers, janitors, construction workers and carpenters. Risk factors for this work injury include work tasks such as:
- Overexertion that comes with lifting heavy boxes, pushing bulky loads or manually pouring laden materials.
- Doing the same movements over long period of time.
- Working in an awkward position such as reaching overhead, squatting or leaning over a counter for a good part of the day.
- Putting undue pressure on small parts of your body like your hands – for instance pressing against hard surfaces.
- Excessive vibrations associated with working with power tools, which can decrease blood flow and damage the nerves in your hands; and driving trucks, which can cause lower back pain.
- Working in really cold environments like a freezer, especially if it requires doing any of the above actions.
How Can it Be Prevented?
Employers are responsible for creating a healthy and safe work environment and when it comes to MSDs, implementing an ergonomic process that is essential to preventing these type of injuries. This means designing the job to the specific person who will be performing it so they can do so as safely as possible from special workstations to using machinery to do tasks such as lifting or pulling heavy loads.
As a worker there are things you can do prevent this injury as well. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health suggests doing things like keeping heavy boxes close to your body, don’t travel more than 10 feet while carrying them and keep twisting movements to a minimum. It’s also a great idea to follow all safety procedures and alert your supervisor if you feel that the type of work you’re doing puts you at risk for a MSD injury.
At Labor Finders we take our associate’s safety on the job very seriously. Visit us to learn more and find your next job opportunity.