Ergonomics Safety Guide (Spanish)
Poster: Posture Makes a Difference
Poster: Posture Makes a Difference (Spanish)
Poster: Good Posture vs. Bad Posture
Payroll Stuffer: Ergonomics
Payroll Stuffer: Ergonomics (Spanish) 

Preventing Work-Related Musculoskeletal Disorders
According to OSHA, 34% of all lost-workday injuries and illnesses are work-related musculoskeletal disorders (WMSDs). These disorders cost employers $15 to $20 billion annually in workers' compensation costs.

WMSDs have many names including repetitive stress injuries, cumulative trauma disorders, overuse syndrome, repetitive motion injuries, golfer’s elbow, tennis elbow, white finger, and game keeper’s thumb. The most widely-known term, and perhaps the most prevalent WMSD in the workplace, is carpal tunnel syndrome.

To prevent these injuries, it is important to understand the factors that contribute to them. Ergonomics are the laws or rules of human strength. The word was originally coined in the 1950s by researchers and engineers interested in the design of living and working environments. Today, the purpose of ergonomics in the workplace is to create a better match between the worker, the duties they perform, and the equipment they use. A good match increases worker productivity and reduces or eliminates WMSDs. A bad match hurts productivity and results in frequent WMSDs.

Factors that contribute to the development of WMSDs include:

  • Force - strength needed to perform a task
  • Repetition - frequency or number of times a task is performed during a shift
  • Posture - positioning of the body to perform a task
  • Lack of recovery time
  • Vibration
  • Temperature - colder temperatures are more harmful
  • Non-work-related issues - health, lifestyle, hobbies, sports activities, employee morale, etc.

Identifying and preventing WMSDs require careful review of these factors. Prevention may require modification of one or more of these factors. Good examples of modification are reducing the forces used, minimizing the repetitiveness of a task, improving posture, and reviewing non-work-related issues and how these factors can be favorably modified. Modification could also mean using an ergonomically-designed and padded tool or job rotation. In some cases, the answer may be automation.

How can an employer determine if there is a WMSD problem? The simplest method is to look at departments with high injury and/or illness rates. While no injury rate should ever be acceptable, rates of 10% and greater are considered high. The 10% injury rate can be used by OSHA to form the basis for a workplace safety violation and citation.

Another method is to look at the type of injuries. Are they WMSDs? High employee absenteeism or turnover can also be indicators. If there is a problem, develop a WMSD prevention plan and include:

  • Problem task identification
  • Task evaluation
  • Solutions
  • Task modification
  • Equipment changes
  • Administrative changes
  • Employee training
  • Documentation of changes’ effectiveness
  • Follow up and additional modifications as needed

Both large and small companies successfully use this prevention model. It is effective in both reducing WMSDs and maintaining, or even increasing, productivity and cost effectiveness. Correctly applied, ergonomics can prevent WMSDs and improve the bottom line.

Additional Resources
WCF Insurance Safety Department
(385) 351-8103

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NOTICE: This guide may make reference to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) regulations; however the guide is not legal advice as to compliance with OSHA or other safety laws, codes, or regulations. Compliance with OSHA and other safety laws codes or regulations, and maintaining a safe work environment for your employees remains your responsibility. WCF Insurance does not undertake to perform the duty of any person to provide for the health or safety of your employees. WCF Insurance does not warrant that your workplace is safe or healthful, or that it complies with any laws, regulations, codes, or standards.