Safetip #28: Encourage Early Reporting of Ergonomic Issues

May 11, 2016
By Jean-Grégoire Manoukian

This week’s Safetip is about ergonomics and early reporting of ergonomic issues that can lead to musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) and other injuries.

Ergonomics Reduces MSDs and Improves Safety

Musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) affect the muscles, nerves, blood vessels, ligaments and tendons. OSHA says that work-related MSDs are among the most frequently reported causes of lost or restricted work time. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), in 2013, MSD cases accounted for 33% of all worker injury and illness cases in the U.S. By implementing an ergonomic process, companies can prevent MSDs and other injuries, thereby improving safety. This is especially the case in industries with high risks of MSDs, such as construction, food processing, firefighting, office jobs, healthcare, transportation and warehousing.

Early Reporting Should be Part of the Ergonomic Process

By encouraging employees to report ergonomic issues early, companies can identify work areas or specific tasks that may cause MSDs or other injuries. The information helps direct the activities of the ergonomic team. Here are some examples of ergonomic issues that can be reported:

  • Exerting excessive force (e.g. lifting heavy objects, pushing or pulling heavy loads).
  • Performing the same or similar tasks repetitively.
  • Working in awkward postures or being in the same posture for long periods of time.
  • Localized pressure into a body part (e.g. pressing the hand against hard or sharp edges).

By reporting ergonomic issues early, workers can also contribute to:

  • Identify and provide important information about hazards in their workplaces.
  • Assist in the ergonomic process by voicing their concerns and suggestions for reducing exposure to risk factors and by evaluating the changes made as a result of an ergonomic assessment.

As part of the training provided on ergonomics and the ergonomic process, be sure to also encourage workers to report early any ergonomic issues they encounter, and instruct them on the steps to follow to report the issues. For example, an can be leveraged to capture and track ergonomic issues also, in addition to near misses and accidents.