Whether employees are at their homes, offices or on job sites, work-related aches and pains can occur, resulting in lost productivity and potential operational issues. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, job-related musculoskeletal disorders (WMSDs) account for nearly 70 million physician visits each year and more than $45 billion in adverse economic effects. This Pain Awareness Month, Cole Ledbetter, CIH, CSP, Senior Industrial Hygiene Manager, is sharing how employers can help reduce the risk of these injuries.

What are the most common WMSDs? 
The most common WMSDs are carpel tunnel syndrome and persistent neck, shoulder, elbow, hand, wrist, and back pain. They can also include more severe injuries like sprains, strains, tears, arthritis, and hernias. These disorders are generally caused by lifting, vibration, overhead work, and repetitive tasks affecting muscles, tendons, joints, cartilage, and spinal discs.

Are certain professions or industries more impacted by WMSDs? 
WMSDs are most common in industries like construction, manufacturing, and shipping, where workers often perform repetitive tasks or consistent heavy lifting.

How can workplace controls help mitigate these injuries?
There are three phases of intervention. Engineering controls mitigate the hazard with the help of robotics, lifting assistance, and workstation modifications. Administrative controls focus specifically on the worker by modifying tasks; reducing shift lengths or rotations; or providing trainings. Personal protective equipment, such as braces and splints, are another line of defense.

What role does proper training play in overall WMSD prevention?
Training workers to perform their jobs safely and correctly greatly reduces the chances of WMSDs. These trainings also allow employers to determine which actions or workspaces may need modifications or where employees may need demonstrations of best practices and techniques.

Does your workplace need assistance developing or implementing workplace controls? Contact us at webquestion@cteh.com..