back painThe rise of work-place injuries related to musculoskeletal disorders -- which is costing U.S. businesses more than $20 billion a year -- may be reduced if companies include ergonomic risk assessments in their occupational health and safety management systems, according to an article in the December issue of the American Society of Safety Enginers' Professional Safety journal.

Musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) represent one-third of all disabling workplace incidents and more than 40 percent of workers’ compensation costs in the U.S., write authors Bruce Lyon, Georgi Popov and Kevin Hanes. MSDs are injuries or disorders of the muscles, nerves, tendons, joints, cartilage and spinal discs, according to the Centers for Disease Control. “The lack of ergonomic principles in workplace design can lead to inherently flawed systems that are costly to retrofit and correct,” the authors write.

Implementing ergonomic risk assessment models and tools can help manage ergonomic risks and reduce MSDs. After developing goals and objectives, companies need to train a cross-functional ergonomics team to oversee the process. The authors recommend these teams review workers’ compensation claims and incident reports to determine if jobs or tasks have a history of MSDs.

By looking at that history and talking to employees in those work areas, the ergonomics team may identify, collect, analyze and evaluate each risk’s severity. Once the assessment is complete, the authors recommend these teams enter risk factors into an ergonomics risk assessment tool to determine whether the job’s ergonomic risk is at an acceptable level or requires additional controls.

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