Source: Jeffrey S. Gross
Workers across a variety of industries can develop musculoskeletal injuries that impact their ability to perform their work and daily activities. Musculoskeletal injuries may happen more frequently in certain occupations that involve lifting, strain, and heavy physical labor, but any worker can develop these conditions as well. They can occur from repetitive motions, which occur across a variety of industries.
Workplace injuries are not inevitable, however, and employers have the legal and ethical obligation to maintain a safe and secure workplace for employees. Workers who are injured on the job can face significant physical and emotional consequences, as well as long-term financial losses over their work life. Practically speaking, it is also in the employer’s best interest to enforce strong safety practices since lost work time is an employer’s financial loss as well. Today, employers have access to a wide range of best practices, as well as evolving safety technologies that can be a significant help in reducing and preventing work injuries.
Types of Injuries and Prevention
Musculoskeletal injuries are those that affect the muscles, bones, joints, ligaments, and tendons. They can be chronic or acute and are the leading factor in disability around the world. When one thinks of musculoskeletal injuries in the workplace, some of the most common are back and neck injuries, repetitive motion injuries to joints, and sprains and fractures. The United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that one-third of all Workers’ Compensation claims are for musculoskeletal injuries.
Technology offers solutions, however, that can be implemented in the workplace as part of a comprehensive safety and health system. A strong work safety culture begins with communication and collaboration and includes regular updated training for management and employees. Technology, such as software, provides a way to improve communication to a workforce of any size in a consistent and uniform manner. Safety protocols for specific occupations should be implemented and communicated; however, without regular reinforcement, compliance can suffer, and the result can be illness and injury.
Reinforcing safety training should be a combination of hands-on training and refreshers, as well as written procedures. If safety information is limited to a binder in a desk drawer and not regularly communicated to employees on the job, clearly this is insufficient. Smart use of technological resources can include clearly stated instructions and warnings shared companywide, both electronically and in posted signage at workstations. Technology also offers the ability to monitor workers’ motions and routes via tracking devices that can provide valuable information on common hazards being missed otherwise.
Smart usage of technology can also include systems that track employee training, equipment maintenance, and common injury locations and situations. There is a wealth of reputable sources employers can access and it requires a commitment to making safety culture an integral part of the work environment.