The Impact of WRMSD
Work-related Musculoskeletal Disorders (WRMSDs), also known as work-related repetitive stress or overuse injuries, are injuries and conditions affecting the muscles, bones, nerves, and tendons that are either caused by or intensified by activities in the workplace over time. WRMSDs are very painful and can lead to lost work time, which can affect both the company and the worker. Studies have shown that WRMSDs account for 34% of the total injury cases (and 27% of workers’ compensation claims) in the workplace and forces workers to take 1-12 days off from work.
The prevalence of WRMSDs vary depending on the industry and occupation, but they mostly affect workers in industries that require them to manually handle heavy materials and machinery, such as in logistics, (warehouse, shipyards, and even air freight). So, if your company is among these types of industries, it’s essential to take note of the following tips to eliminate, or at least minimise, WRMSDs:
Worker Training and Orientation
Body pain is something workers in these industries know all too well, but not everyone is familiar with how to prevent them. Companies must include proper handling techniques when moving items or material-handling tools, as well as the common WRMSDs and their causes during worker training and orientation. This may seem like a waste of time and resources, but WRMSDs can cost the company a lot more. It’s also vital to educate workers on the importance of warm-ups and stretching before performing material-handling tasks, and how (and how frequent) to do them.
Stretching and Warm-up Before Working and During Breaks
If muscles and joints are immediately engaged in heavy physical activities such as lifting and carrying heavy items, they’re more prone to injuries and increase the risk of workplace accidents (i.e. suddenly dropping the item due to sharp muscle pain). It would be best to encourage pre-work stretching and warm-up; it may take away 10-15 minutes of precious staff-hours, but doing so can prevent workers from missing a day or a month at work due to WRMSDs. It’s also important to remind workers to stretch and warm-up during before they get back to work by posting posters of basic stretching-and-warm-up routines in their break areas or near water coolers.
Invest in Tools and Improvements
By providing your workforce with the necessary tools to make the job easier and faster, you won’t only be improving efficiency but also the safety of the staff and the materials being handled. Having an adequate amount of hand trucks, forklifts, ramps, and other material handling equipment would limit the need for the team to handle goods and materials manually. You should also consider more industry-specific improvements such as air cargo roller bed systems for trailers, and warehouse conveyor rollers.
Even with the assistance of proper material handling equipment, and strict implementation of pre-work stretching and warm-up, repeating the same motion when doing the same set of tasks for weeks or months can still increase the risk of repetitive stress injury and other WRMSDs. As such, it’s recommended to reassign workers to do different tasks through job rotation; not only does this help prevent WRMSDs, but it can the company achieve a more well-rounded, skilled workforce.
Protecting your workforce from WRMSDs won’t only ensure their safety and health, but it can improve efficiency, prevent loss from damaged goods/materials, and even promote employee retention by showing your workforce know that you care.