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Musculoskeletal Disorders In The Workplace And How To Avoid Them

Most workers will need to complete manual tasks while performing assorted duties that they are responsible for handling on a day to day basis.

Whether working with people, animals, or even heavy cargo,  people at work will perform numerous manual tasks. These tasks may include packaging products, lifting heavy objects, or even ringing up groceries at the checkout lane.

While some manual tasks are simple and not much of a danger, others are risky can lead to musculoskeletal disorders.

A worker may become injured and suffer from extensive pain as a result of constantly moving his or her body in a repetitive motion to complete the manual tasks that are part of their job. 

Understanding Musculoskeletal Disorders

When a person develops a musculoskeletal disorder, it means they have some sort of injury to the musculoskeletal system. These injuries can vary from one person to the next and are often caused by manual tasks.

The injury can happen at random to someone or it can happen over time when a person is repeatedly completing similar tasks. Injuries involving entrapment or being crushed do not qualify as musculoskeletal disorders.

A person with a musculoskeletal disorder may suffer from one or more of the following conditions:

  • Muscle and ligament strains and sprains
  • Injuries to the back, including slipped discs and spinal cord damage
  • Elbow, wrist, and knee injuries sustained from manual tasks
  • Pain in the back or other parts of the body that is chronic and difficult to manage
  • Carpal tunnel syndrome

These musculoskeletal disorders will often occur gradually. A person who repeats certain movements when working can sustain these injuries and end up experiencing chronic discomfort because of the injuries.

While some of these injuries occur over a period of time at a slow pace, others can happen right away when a person is lifting or completing some other type of manual task.

Certain body tissues have a tendency to weaken over time. If the tissue is already weak, there is a greater chance that the individual will end up with a musculoskeletal disorder.

What Types of Manual Tasks Are Considered Hazardous?

Certain types of manual tasks are considered more hazardous than others.

These tasks include movements that have to do with pushing something, lifting something, pulling an object, or possibly even trying to restrain a person or animal. A hazardous manual task would typically include:

  • Repeated action performed with force
  • Sudden and random forced movement
  • Uncomfortable position when performing a manual task

Some of these factors can contribute to the amount of stress put on the body. When too much stress gets put on the body, it can lead to conditions that cause discomfort for individuals.

Should Everyone Have A Health And Safety Responsibility?

Anyone who operates a business and employs workers does owe a duty of care to those individuals.

It is the responsibility of that business owner to ensure that a safe and healthy environment is provided to employees when they are completing their day to day tasks.

Business owners are not the only ones that have an obligation to provide a safe working environment. The following people may also owe safety and health responsibility to the public:

  • Manufacturers of products commonly used in workplace environments. The manufacturers often supply products that help with the production of various items in warehouse settings and other environments. These manufacturers must make sure that the products they are producing are properly designed. A poorly designed product can contribute to musculoskeletal disorders. Manufacturers must follow a specific code when designing products that they plan to sell to other people to use.
  • Company directors and other officers. A company director must oversee operations and ensure that a company is compliant with the Work Health and Safety Act. If a company director or officer is not diligent, problems can arise because the workplace may not be safe for employees.
  • Employees that are working for a company. While most would expect a company to owe a duty of care to its employees, the employees that are working for a company must also take precautionary measures to protect themselves at work. They must follow the rules and policies that are set for their specific workplace. If rules are broken and procedures are not followed correctly, it is easier for employees to sustain assorted injuries, some of which may be considered musculoskeletal disorders.

What Can Help Lower the Risk of Musculoskeletal Disorders?

Lowering the risk of musculoskeletal disorders involves following specific regulations.

For example, Regulation 60 of the Work Health and Safety Act states that people who are conducting business must take proper steps to manage and lower the risk of musculoskeletal disorders in the workplace.

The individual needs to complete the following tasks:

  • Identify the hazardous manual tasks
  • Assess the risks associated with specific manual tasks
  • Remain compliant of any measures put in place to create a safer and healthier environment
  • Regularly review those control measures to determine how effective they are
  • Making changes to control measures when necessary to protect workers

Talking To The Workers

Those running a company should always consult with their workers. The consultation allows workers to express their thoughts and concerns on certain tasks that are hazardous to them.

It allows company owners to listen to these concerns before making decisions that relate to the health and safety of these individuals.

It is the workers that know which tasks are causing them the most discomfort because they are the ones doing the work. Therefore, it’s important to listen to them.

If you are running a company where workers are regularly performing manual tasks, you should consult with them at different times. The best times to consult with these professionals would include:

  • Showing employees how to complete tasks for the first time or introducing new tasks that employees would need to handle.
  • Providing new equipment for workers to begin using when handling different projects.
  • Working in environments that are new and/or different from what the employees are familiar with.
  • Making changes to the workplace.

When new tasks are assigned or changes are made in the workplace, let your workers know that they should feel comfortable in speaking up about any potential problems they may come across.

If they are experiencing some discomfort when completing manual tasks, modifications should be made to increase comfort while lowering the risk of musculoskeletal disorders.

Shared Responsibilities In The Workplace

At times, workers may share responsibilities with one another. They may need to follow strict policies and regulations to avoid potential problems and lower the risk of sustaining injuries while performing certain tasks.

Those that are sharing responsibilities with one another should consult with each other on health and safety matters. Both parties should understand the precautionary measures that are worth taking.

When situations like this occur, you should always talk to the people you are working with. You need to gather important information from them.

It is necessary to have a plan in motion, including figuring out who is responsible for handling certain tasks.

Failure to understand what each person is responsible for doing could lead to human errors that put individuals at risk while in the workplace.

As an example, you might have a supplier that comes to your workplace to deliver certain products to your workers. You need to make sure the supplier understands how to deliver these items the right way.

You can let the supplier know about the exact protocol your workers are going to follow when they receive these shipments.

By being transparent about the situation and letting the supplier know exactly what will happen and how it will happen, you can keep your workers safe and productive while lowering risks.

When it comes to scaffolding, understanding musculoskeletal disorders in the workplace and how to avoid them is critical considering the high-risk nature of the work.

If you are looking for knowledgeable and experienced scaffolders, who have leading-hands that work together with you and offer expert advice, please contact us at Skelscaff today on 1300 266 607 or contact us via our website.