Encourage Workers to Report Ergonomic Risk Factors - Safetip #182

Safety Tip and Best Practice
September 04, 2019

Our latest Safetip is about encouraging workers to report ergonomic risk factors that can lead to musculoskeletal disorders or other injuries.

MSDs and Ergonomic Issues in the Workplace

In many industries, work-related musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) are among one of the most frequent types of injury and illness.

In the U.S., MSD cases accounted for 33% of all worker injury and illness cases in 2013 according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (source).

In Europe, 44.7% of workers reported backache and 44.4% muscular pains in shoulders, neck and/or upper/lower limbs, according to data from the Sixth European Working Conditions Survey. This means that about 75-80 million workers reported suffering from work-related MSDs in Europe.

The Ergonomic Process and Risk Factors

An ergonomic process helps to reduce risks of MSDs by making sure that the designs of products, processes, systems and physical environments “fit” to the capacities and requirements of a worker.

A key part of the ergonomic process is to identify the risk factors that can lead to MSDs and other injuries. Encourage workers to report risk factors as soon as they see or identify something. Ergonomic risk factors include:

  • Exerting excessive force. Lifting heavy objects, pushing or pulling heavy loads, manually pouring materials, or maintaining control of equipment or tools.
  • Repetitive movements. Performing the same motion or series of motions continually or frequently for an extended period of time.
  • Working in awkward postures or being in the same posture for long periods of time. Using positions that place stress on the body, such as prolonged or repetitive reaching above shoulder height, kneeling, leaning over a counter, or twisting the body while lifting.
  • Localized pressure into a body part. Pressing the body or part of the body (such as the hand) against hard or sharp edges.
  • Vibrations. Both whole body and hand-arm vibrations can cause health effects. The effects of vibrations can damage the body and greatly increase the force that must be exerted for a task.
  • Extreme temperatures. Some risk factors may increase in very hot or cold environments.

In addition, OSHA recommends that you observe if workers are exhibiting the following behaviors that may indicate the presence of ergonomic issues:

  • Modifying their tools, equipment or work area.
  • Shaking their arms and hands.
  • Rolling their shoulders.
  • Bringing products such as back belts or wrist braces into the workplace.

Finally, encourage the reporting of ergonomic risk factors by making it as easy as possible. Enable employees to report through their mobile devices right away in just a few steps. They can also include videos and images to better describe what they see.

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Jean-Grégoire Manoukian

Content Thought Leader