Skip to content
    Font Size
    A
    A
    A

    On-the-Job Injuries

    Are workers paying a high price for productivity?

    continued...

    But many business groups and lawmakers say the measures in OSHA's proposal will themselves require unwarranted expense. Citing insufficient scientific evidence, they argue the government should not regulate this issue until there's conclusive proof that workplace ergonomics actually cause (or can remedy) MSDs. "There is a lack of consensus in the scientific and medical communities on the causes of MSDs," says Jennifer Krese, director of employment policy for the National Association of Manufacturers. "Certainly not enough to justify a rule of this magnitude."

    Numerous studies, including research reviewed in 1998 by the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) involving 66 leading specialists in orthopedic surgery and occupational medicine, suggest ergonomics can be at least partly responsible for MSDs. "Physical work factors [such as lifting heavy boxes or equipment] can affect the loading [strain] that is experienced by a worker's tissues and structures," the NAS report said, adding, "Research clearly demonstrates that specific interventions can reduce the reported rate of musculoskeletal disorders for workers who perform high-risk tasks." A new NAS study on the subject, which will reexamine current medical findings and look closely at how these disorders can be prevented, is slated for completion in early 2001.

    But most experts agree that these injuries rarely stem from ergonomics alone; a combination of contributing factors are often involved, including work schedules, pacing of activities, and time pressures on the job. And anyone looking to quantify how much any specific factor is to blame could find it a tough issue to study. "It's difficult to apply critical, scientific methods to determine that a particular action done repetitively over a number of hours will result in injury,'' says Russell E. Windsor, M.D., an orthopedic surgeon and expert in joint replacement surgery from the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York. Unlike a workplace accident, the origins of repetitive injuries are "subtle," he adds. "So many different things can come into play. It's not like having a steel pipe hit you on the head. ''

    Even so, OSHA insists enough evidence exists to move forward with ergonomics programs, pointing to numerous success stories where employers have already reduced workplace injuries by voluntarily making adjustments. That doesn't always mean buying new equipment; sometimes simply allowing more frequent breaks or varying a worker' s tasks is all that's required. When equipment does need modifying, it can be as minor as changing the height of a desk or keyboard. But it can also be as major as buying new lifting equipment or rebuilding an entire assembly line.

    Hot Topics

    WebMD Video: Now Playing

    Click here to wach video: Dirty Truth About Hand Washing

    Which sex is the worst about washing up? Why is it so important? We’ve got the dirty truth on how and when to wash your hands.

    Click here to watch video: Dirty Truth About Hand Washing

    Popular Slideshows & Tools on WebMD

    disciplining a boy
    Types, symptoms, causes.
    fruit drinks
    Eat these to think better.
    embarrassed woman
    Do you feel guilty after eating?
    diabetes supply kit
    Pack and prepare.
    Balding man in mirror
    Treatments & solutions.
    birth control pills
    Which kind is right for you?
    Remember your finger
    Are you getting more forgetful?
    sticky notes on face
    10 tips to clear your brain fog.
    Close up of eye
    12 reasons you're distracted.
    Trainer demonstrating exercise for RA
    Exercises for your joints.
    apple slices with peanut butter
    What goes best with workouts?
    Pink badge on woman chest to support breat cancer
    Myths and facts.

    Pollen counts, treatment tips, and more.

    It's nothing to sneeze at.

    Loading ...

    Sending your email...

    This feature is temporarily unavailable. Please try again later.

    Thanks!

    Now check your email account on your mobile phone to download your new app.

    Women's Health Newsletter

    Find out what women really need.