When you think about common workplace injuries, what comes to mind? In Colorado, slips, trips and falls — particularly on the ice and snow — come to mind. Depending on your specific industry, machinery incidents, cuts, burns and vehicle accidents may also seem relatively common.
However, there’s a type of workplace injury that’s often overlooked or might even seem less significant (although it’s actually the most costly as well as the most common overall). Here’s what you need to know about musculoskeletal disorders and how to prevent them:
- Across the primary industries that Pinnacol protects, MSDs are the most common and most costly workplace injuries. These are more commonly described as strains, sprains, lower back pain and nerve compression conditions.
- Twenty-six percent of all Pinnacol claims each year are due to MSDs, resulting in over $84 million in claims.
- Lower back strains comprise the largest portion of MSD injuries at 34 percent, and they average $10,745 per claim. Shoulder injuries and hand, wrist or finger strains tie for second in the category with 14 percent for each.
- Assessing and mitigating the risk factors that cause MSDs can greatly reduce the overall number of injuries and subsequent claims. These include repetition, awkward postures, lifting or moving heavy objects, and lack of recovery time.
- The best way to mitigate these risk factors is to completely eliminate a hazard or to substitute a dangerous behavior with one that is less likely to cause an MSD injury.
- If elimination is not possible, the next best option is to find ways to minimize the amount of manual material handling needed. Using mechanical devices — lifts, stackers and hoists, for example — are ways to accomplish this.
- Finally, if it is not possible to eliminate the hazard or minimize the manual handling, seek alternative measures such as reorganizing the sequence of job tasks to incorporate more frequent recovery periods, and cross-training employees to allow frequent job rotation. These are most successful if employed as ongoing processes.
Looking for more information? Pinnacol has a library of resources to help. Visit the Knowledge Center to find ergonomic guidelines by industry, lifting best practices, back safety information and more.