The majority of musculoskeletal injuries in the workplace can be mitigated through effective injury prevention strategies. Musculoskeletal injuries are pain in the bones, muscles, ligaments, tendons, and/or nerves and can be either acute (short-term) or chronic (long-term).
There are work risk factors that can increase the chances of an employee developing a musculoskeletal injury. Managers should be trained in recognizing these risks and implementing practices to prevent injuries in the workplace. Jobs with higher risks for musculoskeletal injuries often have the following characteristics:
- High repetition
- Awkward postures
- Forceful exertion
- Static and constrained positions
- Fast work pace
Managers can help employees counter these risks in a number of ways. Effective ways to reduce injury in the workplace include:
Browsing through hundreds of professional photos of everyday folks at work, we were looking for our ‘Big 3’ healthy posture and movements; a wide base of support, hinging at the hips and anchoring the shoulder blades. Surprisingly, this became an almost impossible task. Just about every photo had at least one person with improper posture. Whenever I found a work task where somebody was reaching or bending forward – they were often bending through their back with a narrow stance instead of hinging through the hips. Even when searching for lifestyle-related shots, the same postures were evident.
It dawned on me that this problem is the exact reason for our company to be in business. Many people just don’t know how to recognize proper posture and how to implement it in the workplace. If we repeat poor movement habits hundreds of times a day there is only so much that ergonomic workstations, tools, and equipment can really do to prevent the discomfort and pain syndromes many of us experience.
What Do You See?
MoveSafe’s ‘Big 3’ elements offer an effective framework for safe movement. The ‘Big 3’ elements include maintaining a wide base of support, hinging through the hips, and anchoring the shoulder blades. Following these three practices will protect the body from common musculoskeletal injuries like neck pain, back pain, sprains and strains.
Training workers on proper work technique and providing protocols for safety can further reduce the risk of injury. For example, providing tools for heavy-lifting such as carts and dollies will reduce the amount of physical exertion required for a task.
Allowing workers to rotate between workstations can help avoid prolonged periods of task repetition which can lead to fatigue or injury. Job rotation increases the variety of tasks to give specific muscle groups and tendons a break from repetitive motions. If job rotation is utilized, managers should ensure that the same muscle-tendon groups are not being used in subsequent workstations. Additionally, workers must be fully qualified for each job in rotation as inexperience is another risk factor for injury.
Brief recovery breaks that include purposeful stretching can effectively counteract the negative effects of repetitive movements and constrained postures. A task is considered highly repetitive if the cycle time is 30 seconds or less. Managers should schedule frequent breaks for employees that do repetitive work or must hold constrained postures for extended periods of time. Each employees’ stretching routines will need to be customized to counter the repetitive motion of the task. Additionally, resting breaks give the affected area time to recover.
Ergonomics is designing or arranging workplaces, products and systems so that they are efficient and safe for the people who use them. Workplaces with high-risk factors for injury should undergo an ergonomic assessment to optimize all workstations for safe movement. Consultants specializing in ergonomics can offer recommendations and educational programs for employees that are at high risk for injury.
Managers working in fields with high risks of musculoskeletal injuries should be aware of potential causes for injury and implement ways to prevent them. Educating employees about safe movement, implementing job rotation, encouraging frequent breaks, and following ergonomic principles will mitigate these risks.
Managers who are not experienced in implementing safe movement and ergonomic procedures will benefit from a third-party assessment. The MoveSafe®️ Program is a holistic approach to injury prevention in the workplace. The program focuses on the musculoskeletal injury prevention process, covering body preparation and maintenance, ergonomics and safe movement.