Ergonomics: MSD Prevention Toolkit

msd prevention

Work related musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) are among the most frequently reported causes of lost or restricted work time.

  • According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) MSDs account for over 600,000 work related injuries and illnesses (34% of all lost workdays).
  • Direct costs attributable to MSDs exceeds $20 billion per year.
  • Indirect costs may be 3-5 times higher.
  • $1 of every $3 of Worker’s Compensation costs are spent on MSDs.
  • Mean costs for an upper extremity MSD case are $8,070 vs. $4,075 for all types of work-related injury.

Canada’s Occupational Health and Safety Council of Ontario has put together an excellent toolbox on assessment methods and training for work related MSDs.  Check it out HERE.

Source: Institute for Work & Health

Free Online Safety and Training Courses

The state of Washington is offering some invaluable online safety and training courses on their website.  Topics include:

  • Accident Investigation
  • Safety Checklists
  • Ergonomics
  • Fall Protection
  • Janitorial Services
  • Job Safety / Hazard Analyses
  • Lockout / Tagout
  • Noise
  • Process Safety Management (PSM)
  • and much more

You can find the courses and modules on the Washington State Department of Labor & Industries website.

Free Online Training Modules in Occupational Hygiene

The Occupational Hygiene Training Association (OHTA), has created a new website,, where free course materials for international occupational hygiene training modules are posted.  Find training materials, learn about occupational hygiene, or develop your existing skillset.

Modules currently available include:

  • Noise
  • Asbestos
  • Measurement of Hazardous Substances
  • Health Effects of Hazardous Substances
  • Control of Hazardous Environments
  • Thermal Environments
  • Ergonomics
  • Basic Principles of Occupational Hygiene

According to the website, OHTA mission is as follows:

OHTA was formed to promote better standards of occupational hygiene practice throughout the world.  We develop training materials and make them freely available for use by students and training providers.  We also promote an international qualifications framework so that all hygienists are trained to a consistent, high standard, recognized in all participating countries.

Return on Investment (ROI) for Early Ergonomic Intervention

The Canadian Occupational Safety webzine recently published an article regarding the types of returns companies can expect from early ergonomic intervention.  The purpose of the article was to “to show the business case for using ergonomic and accessible design early in the design/build, move, renovation and/or purchase phase” and their numbers sound convincing.  Jane Sleeth, managing director and consultant with Optimal Performance Consultants, stated that the cases they have worked on have shown significant ROI when sound ergonomic principles are used in the early stages of workplace/work-process design.

Most importantly are the numbers discussed.  Sleeth states that,

Over the last 20 years, we found that businesses that use ergonomics and human factors at the initial phase of purchasing, design, move and/or build projects save anywhere from 15 percent to as high as 700 percent in follow up consulting fees, modifications and retrofits, as well as additional capital purchase costs.

To view the article, visit the COS website HERE.

Worksheet: Analyzing Lifting Operations

Washington’s Department of Labor and Industries has created a worksheet based upon the NIOSH Lifting Equation to determine if a lift operation exceeds the recommended limits.  A copy of this worksheet can be found here:

  Worksheet: Ergonomics Calculations (40.8 KiB, 1,322 hits)

.  If you are unfamiliar with the NIOSH Lifting Equation, a good resource is the Revised NIOSH Lifting Equation Document.

LI = the relative estimate of the physical stress associated with a manual lifting job


Sources:  eLCOSH & NIOSH

MSD’s to be Added Back to OSHA 300 Log?

OSHA is proposing to revise its Recordkeeping regulation (29 CFR part 1904) to restore a column to the OSHA 300 Log that employers would use to record work-related musculoskeletal disorders (MSD). The 2001 Recordkeeping final regulation included an MSD column, but the requirement was deleted before it became effective. The proposed rule would require employers to place a check mark in the MSD column, instead of the column they mark now, if the case is an MSD and meets the general recording requirements of the Recordkeeping rule. The rule also proposes, for this recordkeeping purpose only, a definition of MSD that is identical to the one contained in the 2001 final Recordkeeping rule. In addition, OSHA proposes an entry for the total number of MSDs on the OSHA 300A form, the form that employers use to annually summarize their work-related injuries and illnesses (see 29 CFR 1904.32).

In 2003 OSHA deleted the MSD provisions (column and definition) from the 2001 Recordkeeping rule. However, after further consideration and analysis, the Agency believes that information generated from the MSD column will improve the accuracy and completeness of national occupational injury and illness statistics; will provide valuable and industry specific information to assist OSHA in effectively targeting its inspection, outreach, guidance and enforcement efforts to address workplace MSDs; and will provide useful establishment-level information that will help both employers and employees readily identify the incidence of MSDs.

OSHA stresses that the purpose of this rulemaking is solely to improve data gathering regarding work-related MSDs. The proposed rule does not require employers to take any action other than to check the MSD column on the OSHA 300 log if a work-related MSD case occurs that meets the general recording requirements of the Recordkeeping regulation. Unlike OSHA standards, the proposed rule does not require employers to implement controls to prevent and control employee exposure to an identified occupational hazard.


AIHA Begins New Podcast: Safe & Sound

The American Industrial Hygiene Association (AIHA) has started a new weekly podcast that will cover safety, worker health, industrial hygiene news, and general information relevant to the AIHA membership. The podcast will be hosted by AIHA’s Melissa Hurley and Craig Sorrell.

Episode 1 of the Safe & Sound podcast is entitled “Ergonomics” and features Sheree Gibson, PE, CIH, who is a member of the AIHA Ergonomics Committee.

Topics in the podcast include:

  • What are MSD’s (musculoskeletal disorders)
  • What are the causes of MSD’s
  • How to limit MSD’s
  • The future of ergonomic standards
  • AIHA’s position statement on ergonomics
  • and much more…

You can listen to the AIHA podcast at the AIHA website.

Note:  The podcast can also be downloaded to your portable music player by left clicking on the above link.

Source: AIHA

Five Ways Ergonomics Has Changed Our Lives

ergonomic-garden-tool-setErgonomic-Office-ChairsThe BBC has produced an interesting article detailing some of the ways in which ergonomics has shaped our lives over the years.

From the car, to the office and job site, from packaging, to pretty little things, the concept and application of ergonomics has made the objects and environments in our lives more comfortable.

A selection of the article about Three Mile Island vs. Ergonomics  is provided after the break.


Ergonomics for Construction Workers

simple_solutions_ergonomics_construction_workersThis booklet, published by NIOSH, is intended for construction workers, unions, supervisors, contractors, safety specialists, human resources managers-anyone with an interest in safe construction sites. Some of the most common injuries in construction are the result of job demands that push the human body beyond its natural limits.Workers who must often lift, stoop, kneel, twist, grip, stretch, reach overhead, or work in other awkward positions to do a job are at risk of developing a work-related musculoskeletal disorder (WMSD). These can include back problems, carpal tunnel syndrome, tendinitis, rotator cuff tears, sprains, and strains.iron worker

To aid in the prevention of these injuries, this booklet suggests many simple and inexpensive ways to make construction tasks easier, more comfortable, and better suited to the needs of the human body.

Example of a “simple solution.” This ironworker uses a tool that automatically ties rebar with the pull of a trigger. The extended handle lets him work while standing upright. No leaning, kneeling, stooping, or hand twisting are necessary.

Did you know … ?

  • Construction is one of the most hazardous industries in the United States.
  • The number of back injuries in U.S. construction was 50% higher than the average for all other U.S. industries in 1999 (CPWR, 2002).
  • Backaches and pain in the shoulders, neck, arms, and hands were the most common symptoms reported by construction workers in one study (Cook et al, 1996).
  • Material handling incidents account for 32% of workers’ compensation claims in construction, and 25% of the cost of all claims. The average cost per claim is $9,240 (CNA, 2000).
  • Musculoskeletal injuries can cause temporary or even permanent disability, which can affect the worker’s earnings and the contractor’s profits.


AIHA Position Statement: Ergonomics

lower_backA revision to the American Industrial Hygiene Association’s (AIHA) postion statement regarding ergonomics has been recently issued.  AIHA defines ergonomics as the anticipation, recognition, evaluation and control of musculoskeletal disorders (MSD) and their risk factors in the workplace.

According to AIHA, the goal of ergonomics is to:

  1. Decrease the risk of MSD
  2. Decrease worker discomfort and improve the quality of work-life
  3. Improve worker performance

AIHA believes that the benefits of such a program include:

  1. Enhanced safety and health program performance
  2. Improved quality and productivity
  3. Reductions in errors
  4. Heightened employee morale
  5. Reduced compensation and operating costs
  6. Accommodation of diverse populations of workers

Scientific data supports findings that indicate work-related MSDs cost approximately $50 billion annually and affect 1 million people each year.  Guidelines are available that reduce the risk associated with MSDs but regulation concerning ergonomics should be enacted as a more effective strategy to deal with the issues.  Additionally, research should be continued to refine models and dose-response relationships between the workplace and MSDs.

A copy of AIHA’s position paper can be downloaded HERE:

  HazComPPT.ppt (1.4 MiB, 2,351 hits)


Case Study: Ergonomic Approaches that Work

ergonomics_da_vinciA proactive ergonomic intervention reduces pain related to poor work postures in office employees, according to a study in the October Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine.

Simply buying ergonomic desks and chairs isn’t enough – setup and adjustment by a professional ergonomist is an essential part of the proactive ergonomic approach, according to the study led by Jasminka Goldoni Laestadius, M.D., Ph.D., of The World Bank’s Joint Bank/Fund Health Services Department.

Prompted by a move to a new World Bank headquarters, the researchers designed a study to determine whether a proactive approach to ergonomics could reduce pain and other symptoms in office workers. One group of workers received new ergonomic office furniture, along with information on how to set it up. Another group also received new furniture and information, plus personalized setup by a professional ergonomist.

The proactive approach reduced symptoms of musculoskeletal pain and eyestrain, but only for workers receiving an expert work station setup. This group also had a significant increase in productivity. Neither group had a significant reduction in sick leave.

The reduction in symptoms was clearly related to improved work postures. “Better postures meant less pain,” the researchers wrote. “This verifies our experience that equipment such as an adjustable chair does not add value unless properly adjusted.”