Safety authorities nationwide, including Thurston and surrounding counties in Washington state, have had many discussions about the value of ergonomic studies and workstation modifications to mitigate musculoskeletal and other injuries in workplaces. Are you fortunate enough to have an employer who prioritizes employee safety and health? If not, you might benefit from discussing the benefits of ergonomics with your superiors.
Activities that can lead to MSDs include manual handling and lifting of materials, with the risks exacerbated by frequent and repetitive motions. Learning about ergonomic hazards can help you prevent lost workdays that might compromise your financial stability.
Ergonomic challenges to address
The following activities can put you at risk of a variety of musculoskeletal disorders:
- Standing: Long periods of standing on hard surfaces can cause pain in your feet, ankles, knees, legs and back. By rotating standing and sitting, wearing shoes with padded soles and proper arch support, and using mats or floor padding, you can limit the damage.
- Seating: To avoid gradual injury, your seat should be padded, and have adjustable support for your arms, feet and back to allow you to fit the chair and the support it provides to your unique body and posture.
- Awkward postures: If your job requires you to maintain awkward body postures for extended periods, especially with little or no movement, this can be dangerous. This includes long periods of sitting in an inappropriate chair.
- Manual material handling: Frequent twisting, bending and reaching is harmful, and arranging shelves, conveyors and tables in a way that will allow you to handle materials between your waist and chest height can limit damage to your back.
- Repetitive motions: If your tasks involve repetitive motions, you can limit the damage by taking frequent brakes and alternating duties or rotating with co-workers to reduce prolonged repetition.
- Excessive vibrations: Frequent use and holding of vibrating power tools can damage the delicate blood vessels, nerves and muscles in your hands.
- Lifting awkward objects: Avoid lifting awkwardly shaped objects without lifting aids or the help of a co-worker.
- The need to use force: If your job requires localized pressure or excessive force in execution, using insulated tools, hand protection and padding is crucial.
- Improper skeletal alignment: Keeping your body erect and straight while you work, instead of bending, twisting, stretching and squatting, can limit the risks of MSDs because stress on the body increases with the shift of body weight as you stretch or reach.
- Pounding: When your motions include pounding, your joints, bones, ligaments, tendons and muscles will bear undue force, causing stress and damage.
- Eye strain: Glare and intense light can cause as much damage to your eyes as working in low light or poorly lit workspaces. The most effective way to ensure even lighting throughout and limit glare that can cause eyestrain is to use LED lighting.
- Extremely cold temperatures: Protect yourself from the additional muscle stress cold work environments can create by layering your clothes and wearing hand and head protection to keep you warm.
If your work environment is ergonomically safe, you might never need the financial assistance of workers' compensation insurance. However, workplace accident can occur at any time and to anyone. If you are a victim, an experienced Washington workers' compensation attorney can provide the necessary support and guidance in your pursuit of benefits to cover medical expenses and lost wages.