Ergonomics: When Work Really Can Be Hazardous to Your Health


Frequent and repetitive motions on the job can sometimes lead to serious injuries to workers’ bodies. Work-related musculoskeletal disorders (WMSDs) are disorders affecting muscles, tendons and nerves.

Work that is done by the arms and hands can impact the health of the hands, wrists, elbows, neck and shoulders. Work done with the legs can affect the legs, hips, ankles and feet. Back problems can also exist.

The Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety (CCOHS) identifies these risk factors for WMSDs:

  • Fixed or constrained body positions
  • Continual repetition of movements
  • Force concentrated on small parts of the body, such as the hand or wrist
  • A pace of work that does not allow sufficient recovery between movements

There are many symptoms of WMSDs, such as joint stiffness, muscle tightness, redness and swelling of the affected area; pain is the most common symptom. Different symptoms can be associated with different disorders. For example, the symptoms of tendonitis include pain, weakness, swelling, burning sensation or dull ache over affected area. DeQuervain’s disease causes pain at the base of the thumb.

CCOHS highlights four main treatments for WMSDs.

One is just avoiding the motions that are responsible for the injury. The next is the application of heat or cold to relieve the pain and speed healing. Cold can reduce pain and swelling, while heat can ease muscle pain.

Exercise is also helpful, as it promotes circulation and reduces muscle tension. Anti-inflammatory drugs can also be effective in reducing pain and inflammation.

Educate your workers on WMSDs so they can recognize the symptoms and receive treatment as soon as possible.

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