Ergonomics is a term used to describe the study of how we physically perform work and the influence our work environment may have on us. Over the years, the importance of ergonomics and ergonomic design in the workplace has been highlighted due to the number of workplace injuries (Musculoskeletal Disorders) that occurr as a result workplace design.

Musculoskeletal Disorders (MSD) are the number one type of work related lost time claim reported in Ontario to the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB). MSD injuries constitute 42% of all lost time claims and costs, as well as, 50% of all lost time days (average WSIB values from 1996-2004).

Carleton University incurs very similar injury statistics when compared to the Ontario average; therefore, from a risk management perspective it is important for the university to take action to minimize the risk to MSD associated injuries.

What are Musculoskeletal Disorders (MSD)?

With a single type of injury being so prevalent in the workforce it is important to understand what exactly an MSD injury is along with what causes them to occur in the first place.

MSD are injuries and disorders of the musculoskeletal system and can be caused or aggravated by a number of hazards or risk factors in the workplace. The musculoskeletal systems includes: muscles, tendons, tendon sheaths, nerves, bursa, blood vessels, joints/spinal discs, and ligaments. Any combination of these elements can be affected when it comes to MSD injuries.

It is important to note that MSD injuries are overuse injuries which occur over a certain period of time and are influenced by specific risk factors and hazards in the workplace.

MSD is used as a generic term that covers a number of different injuries that you may be familiar with, injury terms such as: repetitive strain injury, cumulative trauma disorder, musculoskeletal injury, occupational overuse syndrome, sprain, and strain.

Since MSD injuries are overuse injuries they do not include injuries that are a direct result of a fall, struck by or against, caught in or on, vehicle collisions or any other injury not a result of physical overexertion.

Understanding Musculoskeletal Disorders (MSD) Hazards

In order to be able to recognize, assess, and control MSD hazards it is important to be able to understand what are MSD hazards in the workplace. There are a number of MSD hazards that can be present in the workplace but the primary hazards can be broken down into three main categories:

  1. Force
  2. Fixed or Awkward Postures
  3. Repetition

MSD’s have been strongly linked to these known risk factors in the workplace and it is important to consider their effects on the body. For each job or individual tasks it is important to look at all of the MSD hazards together since these hazards always interact and seeing the cumulative effect of the hazards may be an important part to reducing the injury risks.

Carleton University’s MSD Prevention Program

The MSD Prevention Program at Carleton University aims to reduce MSD injuries through a systematic process that provides employees with the tools and capabilities to recognize MSD hazards, assess MSD hazards, and provide cost effective solutions. The MSD Prevention Program applies campus wide and to all departments. The role and responsibilities of managers, supervisors, and staff will vary from department to department, depending on the risk of MSD injury in that department: with a risk assessment of a department and/or occupation being a product of the physical demands of the job and the employee(s) history of MSD injuries. With the wide scope of this program it is a requirement to have the cooperation and active participation of all staff.

If you have any concerns regarding MSDs and believe an ergonomic assessment may be needed to prevent an injury or mitigate a current injury, contact the Environmental Health and Safety department and we will be happy to assist.

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