Musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) affect the muscles, nerves, blood vessels, ligaments and tendons. Workers may sustain MSD injuries by lifting heavy items, bending, reaching overhead, pushing and pulling heavy loads, working in awkward body postures and performing the same or similar tasks repetitively.

The impact of MSDs on productivity is significant; they are among the most frequently reported causes of lost or restricted work time.

According to OSHA, workers in the following occupations are at highest risk for MSDs:

  • Registered nurses, nursing assistants and psychiatric aides
  • Firefighters and prevention workers
  • Laborers and freight, stock and material movers
  • Janitors and cleaners
  • Heavy and tractor-trailer truck drivers
  • Refuse and recyclable material collectors
  • Stock clerks and order fillers
  • Maids and housekeeping cleanersLight truck or delivery services drivers
  • Telecommunications line installers and repairers
  • Bus drivers, transit and intercity
  • Production workers
  • Police and sheriff patrol officers
  • Heating, air conditioning, and refrigeration mechanics and installers
  • Plumbers, pipefitters and steamfitters
  • Maintenance and repair workers, general

How to prevent MSDs

Work-related MSDs can be prevented by the application of ergonomics --- fitting a job to a person.

Here are the key elements of an ergonomics program:

  • Management Support: A strong commitment by management is critical to the overall success of an ergonomic process.
  • Worker involvement: The people who perform the tasks can provide valuable assistance in identifying the hazards they face and suggesting ways to reduce exposure to risk factors.
  • Training: Training ensures that workers are aware of ergonomics and role in workplace safety and understand the importance of reporting early symptoms of MSDs.
  • Problem identification
  • Solution implementation
  • Progress evaluation