Know Your Workplace Enemy: WMSDs
What are WMSDs?
Technological advances have made the computer an essential part of the workplace. Unfortunately, excessive exposure to computers and other visual display units brings a number of health concerns, one of the most significant being work-related musculoskeletal disorders, or WMSDs (2). WMSDs can negatively affect management as these injuries directly impact absenteeism, loss of productivity, and increased healthcare, disability and workers compensation costs (5). WMSDs are the single largest category of workplace injuries and are responsible for almost 30% of all worker’s compensation expenses and cost U.S companies nearly 50 billion dollars in 2011 (3). Musculoskeletal Disorders are injuries or disorders that affect the human body’s movement or musculoskeletal system (i.e., muscles, tendons, ligaments, nerves, discs, blood vessels) and can include but are not limited to:
· Back or shoulder pain
· Muscle sprains, strains, and tears
· Carpal tunnel syndrome
· Ruptured or herniated disc
· DeQuervain’s disease (1)
Musculoskeletal Disorders do not result from a single event or accident, but rather are disorders that have developed gradually from chronic workplace and occupational conditions and individual lifestyle factors (6). These statistics and facts can be daunting, but the good news is that all WMSDs are preventable. It is important to understand the most significant risk factors to prevent WMSDs effectively. There are two main categories of risk factors: ergonomic risk factors and individual risk factors (3).
Ergonomic risk factors include:
· Highly repetitious tasks: Repetitive wrist motions at a computer station put an employee at risk for a WMSD. Work-related stress and a pace of work that does not allow sufficient recovery between movements compound this risk factor (1) (5).
· Forceful exertion: Frequently carrying heavy loads on shoulders or back, or not using the proper form can put employees at higher risks (1).
· Repetitive and sustained awkward postures: Putting your body into awkward positions for an extended period strains the musculoskeletal system. Ergonomically deficient computer workstations can fatigue particular muscles groups, increasing the load for others, contributing to WMSDs (5) (6).
Individual risk factors include:
· Poor work practices: Poor sleep practices, poor posture, and poor lifting techniques contribute to WMSDs and these factors also heavily influence an employees’ recovery period, increasing healthcare costs.
· Lack of physical fitness and nutrition: Employees that do not take time to exercise and eat right add to their risk of WMSDs.
· Bad health habits: Employees increase their level of risk by smoking, drinking excessively, and overeating as these behaviors inhibit the body’s ability to recover from WMSDs (4).
Because multiple factors contribute to work-related musculoskeletal disorders, it is important to implement effective employee wellness initiatives, emphasizing the importance of preventative measures. OMH Solutions helps organizations evaluate and develop ergonomic workspaces by addressing both the individual and the environment.
BY RACHEL BEEBE
(1) Canadian Centre for Occupation Health & Safety. (n.d.). Work-related Musculoskeletal Disorders (WMSDs): OSH Answers. Retrieved September 12, 2017, from https://www.ccohs.ca/oshanswers/diseases/rmirsi.html
(2) Gainer, R. (2008). History of ergonomics and occupational therapy. WORK: A Journal of Prevention, Assessment and Rehabilitation, 31(1), 5-9.
(3) Middlesworth, M. (2012). Musculoskeletal Disorder Prevention Best Practices for Proactive OHS Pros - Ergonomics Plus. Retrieved from http://ergo-plus.com/musculoskeletal-disorder-prevention-best-practices-proactive-ohs-pros/
(4) Therapy-First Physiotherapy Ltd. (2013, November 30). Musculoskeletal Disorders & Work Place. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L6zQ80gBdyU.
(5) Wahlström, J. (2005). Ergonomics, musculoskeletal disorders and computer work. Occupational Medicine, 55(3), 168-176.
(6) Kilnger, P. (2014). Barber ergonomics. Retrieved from http://mccscherrypoint.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/02/CHPT-Barber-ErgonomicsNew.pdf