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What Are MSDs?  

Musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) are injuries that occur due to repetitive strain on certain muscles, tendons, and ligaments. Poorly designed workplaces, such as ones designed to get work done quickly instead of safely, are the main culprit. Other names for these types of injuries include repetitive strain injuries, repetitive motion disorders, cumulative trauma disorders or overuse syndrome.

MSD Symptoms

Musculoskeletal disorders tend to develop over a long period. They can also cause constant pain that is not overly noticeable at first but progressively worsens until it could be permanent. If left unchecked, MSD can prevent someone from doing their jobs or even doing everyday activities. Examples of MSD symptoms include tendonitis, carpal tunnel syndrome, a rotator cuff injury or lower back injury. Other MSD symptoms include:

  • Tingling
  • Swelling
  • Tenderness
  • Weakness
  • Soreness
  • Difficulty with movement
  • Burning feeling
  • Clumsiness

MSD Risk Factors

There are many MSD risk factors to consider. They can generally be divided into two categories: physical risk factors and work organization/ergonomic hazards.

Physical Risk factors can include:

  • Pushing/lifting/pulling
  • Working in uncomfortable or awkward positions
  • Working with tools or objects that vibrate
  • Repeating the same or similar movements repetitively
  • Working in extreme temperatures

Work organization risk factors include:

  • Fast pace of work
  • Too much work to do
  • Long hours
  • Too few rest breaks
  • Not enough workers

Ergonomics Programs

To prevent MSD, an ergonomics program is vital to any workplace. The purpose of this program is to identify hazards in the workplace and determine a control measure to fix them.

Types of controls:

  • Using personal protective equipment such as knee pads and gloves
  • Engineering controls to make changes to ergonomic hazards.
  • Administrative controls change the way a job is done, such as shortening the work day or adding more employees

Some employers will be concerned with the cost of implementing some of the controls that need to be put in place, but it is important to remember that MSD treatment will always be more expensive than preventative controls.