The human body is a workhorse, but it also can be fragile and needs to be cared for on a daily basis.
Most of what a body does is supposed to be with maximum efficiency, or things will ache and hurt and will force us to change how we work.
Over the years, it has become increasingly clear and correlative that ergonomics have a direct impact on overall health of the human body, and poor posture or inefficient movements lead to chronic trouble that are categorized under MSDs, or musculoskeletal disorders. I have written about this in earlier blog posts, but it never hurts to discuss reminder about the value of ergonomics these days in keeping workers healthy and on the job.
Ergonomics and MSDs
A trio of authors – Walter Rostykus, Winnie Ip and Jennifer Ann Dustin – combined to write a recent article in Professional Safety magazine that goes into some depth about how to manage ergonomics in the workplace to better ensure positive outcomes for your workforce and a reduction in time-loss situations. We’ll spend a couple of blog spaces discussing the points the authors make in this article and help you develop a good program for reducing MSDs in your workplace, as many MSDs can be signs of future time-loss events involving workers and injuries on the job.
For this article, the authors were making a case for ISO 45001, the Standard for Occupational Health and Safety Management Systems, to serve as a model for any ergonomics program or initiative that a company may introduce. The article explains how 45001 is a model and what we all can do to move our safety programs effectively in the direction of preventing MSDs.
MSD Risk Factors
Musculoskeletal disorders are actually quite common and they vary widely in severity. They are basically any pain or injury that occurs to joints, bones, muscles, or tendons of the body that affect a person’s ability or efficiency of work. Even a simple sprained ankle can be in the ame category as a broken collar bone or a torn chest muscle.
All of these are put under this one broad category because every single injury, minor to severe, has tended to show that once such an injury occurs, the chances go up that a person will have similar issues in the future. Each injury seems to have a cumulative effect on the human body, and it seems to break down over time and be more and more susceptible to these injuries, or the injuries themselves become chronic in their own right.
Any sprain or strain is caused by inefficient movement, which places undue stress or strain on a muscle, tendon or even joint or bone and causes an injury or at least pain. History and data has indicated that there are three main risk factors that go into most MSDs, and they are:
- Awkward or generally bad posture;
- A high level of force exerted; and
- A high frequency of motion over a long period of time.
Very few MSDs occur with just one of these factors, but a combination of two or all three factors, perhaps with an increased exposure risk to all of them, tend to develop into pain from overuse at first, and extended periods of exposure can lead to an MSD. Some other risks to consider in your workplace that also are known to contribute to an MSD include:
- What is known as soft-tissue compression, or having consistent force pressed down on a muscle or tendon (such as gripping ahammer for extended periods of time and pressing on the palm of your hand or fingers);
- Low temperatures (which restrict the warmth to muscles and tendons, making them less elastic and able to stretch);
- Impact stress; and
- Gloves that don’t fit the job.
The tolerance level of each body part in regard to these secondary risks vary based on the size of the joint or muscle group – the chest or shoulder, for example, will tend to handle these risks at a much higher level than a wrist or knee.
In the next post, we’ll go into the part of the article where ISO 45001 is discussed and is put forth as a model for developing a successful ergonomics management plan in your workplace.