Musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) are a common occurrence in the workplace. Research conducted by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) shows that they account for one-third of all work-related injuries.
As you may know, MSDs are injuries that affect the muscles, ligaments, nerves and other soft tissues in the body. They are often associated with repetitive motions or overexertion. You can perform repetitive motions while working -- or if you overexert yourself while working -- you could develop an MSD. Even if your workplace has MSD hazards, though, there are ways to control them. The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) specifically outlines three types of controls MSD hazards in the workplace, which includes the following.
Personal protective equipment (PPE) is a type of control for MSD hazards. PPE, of course, is wearable equipment that's designed to protect workers from physical injuries as well as illnesses. OSHA requires employers to provide their employees with the appropriate PPE needed for their respective jobs. Wearing PPE is a simple way to lower the risk of MSDs. Workers who wear the appropriate PPE for their job are less likely to develop MSDs than their counterparts.
PPE can consist of any wearable equipment that's designed to protect workers from injuries and/or illnesses. Here are some common forms of PPE:
- Impact-resistant eyewear
- Headphones or ear plugs
- Steel-toe boots
- Hard hats
- Fall protection systems
- Face shields
#2) Engineering Controls
In addition to PPE, OSHA outlines engineering controls as a way to protect workers from MSDs. Engineering controls revolves around ergonomics. You can "engineer" your workplace so that it exposes workers to less stress. Factories, for example, may benefit from the use of anti-fatigue mats. Anti-fatigue mats will improve the ergonomics of line workstations so that workers are exposed to less stress. In offices, using ergonomic chairs is considered an engineering control because it can protect workers from back pain. The end result is a lower risk of MSDs.
#3) Administrative Controls
Finally, administrative controls can curb rates of MSDs in the workplace. What are administrative controls exactly? OSHA defines administrative controls as guidelines or rules that workers are required to follow. Requiring workers to take a break every few hours, for example, is an administrative control that may lower the risk of MSDs. Alternatively, requiring workers to lift heavy objects with at least two people is another administrative control that may lower the risk of MSDs.