A work related musculoskeletal disorder (WMSD) is an injury or disease that affects the body's structural systems. A WMSD may affect the bones, tissue, nervous or circulatory system. These musculoskeletal disorders are often caused by repetitive strain or trauma to the musculoskeletal system. When this type of harm occurs in the workplace, the disorder is referred to as a work related musculoskeletal disorder. Examples of WMSDs include carpal tunnel syndrome, trigger finger, back injuries, and tendinitis. Monitoring employee injuries and implementing an ergonomics program may help prevent work related musculoskeletal disorders.
Work related musculoskeletal disorders (WMSDs) may be caused by a number of different factors in the work environment. Collectively, the factors that contribute to WMSDs are often called ergonomic hazards. An ergonomic hazards is a situation in which the workplace or job is poorly designed and doesn't fit the physical requirements of the worker. When this situation occurs, the worker's body will suffer unnecessary wear and damage during the work day. Over time, these small injuries and wear can lead to the development of a WMSD. Because the term work related musculoskeletal disorders cover a wide range of injuries, other terms are sometimes used to describe the conditions. Terms such as cumulative trauma disorders, repetitive strain, or repetitive stress injuries may sometimes be used to describe these work related conditions.
The severity of the damage an ergonomic hazard will cause depends on the frequency and intensity of a worker's exposure. For example, an employee who jumps from a high platform to the ground once may not suffer an injury. However, if that same employee jumps from a high platform several times each day, his bones and joints may begin to suffer damage. WMSDs can occur in any work setting. A typist may suffer wrist strains or injuries due to a poorly designed workstation. Someone working with heavy machinery may suffer nerve damage due to exposure to excessive vibration. An employee who must assume an awkward body position, reaching up or twisting, may be injured as a result.
To prevent WMSDs, an employer should implement an ergonomics program that identifies and eliminates potential hazards. Employees should be trained to use tools and equipment properly. The employer should monitor the workplace for unsafe situations and ensure compliance with safety rules and standards. In the case of the employee jumping from the platform, the employer might lower the platform or provide an appropriate climbing apparatus. Management would then be tasked with assuring that employees use the provided ladder or steps rather than jumping from the platform. Appropriate work breaks, proper work space design, and reasonable physical accommodations can all contribute to reducing the incidence of WMSDs.