A recent news article published in the Safety4sea speaks about Musculoskeletal Disorders: The number one cause of occupational injuries.
What is MSDs?
The Bureau of Labor Statistics of the Department of Labor defines MSDs as musculoskeletal system and connective tissue diseases and disorders when the event or exposure leading to the case is bodily reaction (e.g., bending, climbing, crawling, reaching, twisting), overexertion, or repetitive motion. MSDs do not include disorders caused by slips, trips, falls, or similar incidents. Examples of MSDs include: Sprains, strains, and tears; Back pain; Carpal tunnel syndrome and; Hernia.
According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, musculoskeletal disorders are associated with high costs to employers such as absenteeism, lost productivity, and increased health care, disability, and worker’s compensation costs. MSD cases are more severe than the average nonfatal injury or illness. Furthermore, the number of MSD injuries is increasing due to repetitive motion, overexertion, and awkward lifting and pulling techniques. The potential for strain injuries can be reasonably anticipated as associated hazards are present in the offshore work environment.
In that regard, steps must be taken to mitigate the risks for strain injuries. The two most applicable contributing factors are Ergonomics and Individual Risk Factors.
- Ergonomic Risk Factors include excessive force loads on the human body, extreme repetition, and awkward posture. To mitigate the risks associated with ergonomic hazards, engineering and administrative controls must be appropriately evaluated.
- Individual Risk Factors include poor work practices, overall health habits, rest and recovery, and nutrition and fitness. To mitigate the risks associated with individual risk factors, employees should be trained in all aspects of human performance and ergonomics. Additionally, implement early intervention processes to recognize MSD early warning signs to prevent them from developing into an injury.
Ensuring a safe workplace
In particular, putting ergonomic and administrative controls in place, to reduce the risks associated with MSD injury hazards, is part of the company’s responsibility to provide a safe workplace for its people. Workplace ergonomics program can aim to prevent or control injuries and illnesses by eliminating or reducing worker exposure to MSD risk factors using engineering and administrative controls.
PPE is also used in some instances but it is the least effective workplace control to address ergonomic hazards. Risk factors include awkward postures, repetition, material handling, force, mechanical compression, vibration, temperature extremes, glare, inadequate lighting, and duration of exposure.
BSEE recommends that operators and their contractors, where appropriate, consider the following:
- Ensure all workers are appropriately trained to recognize and mitigate the risks to MSD injuries.
- Review OSHA’s ergonomic guidelines and implementing the Solutions to Control Hazards.
- Review OSHA’s Sprains and Strains in Construction/Pulling Cables video.
- Develop and implement early intervention processes to recognize early MSD warning signs to prevent them from developing into an injury.
- Establish evaluation and corrective action procedures to periodically assess the effectiveness of the ergonomic process, and to ensure its continuous improvement and long-term success.
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