In strategic decision making for businesses, there will always be some sort of risk. These risks, especially those involving health and safety, should be appropriately managed. When calculating a company’s appetite for risk, it is widely recognized that health and safety should be a priority in the risk assessment of a company. A low tolerance for risks that affect employee health is common sense, because anything that directly affects your employees’ health affects productivity. Having a low risk tolerance for the health and safety of your employees also reduces workers’ comp claims and insurance premiums. Therefore, it makes more financial sense in the long run to prioritize the mitigation of health risks in the workplace.
Musculoskeletal disorders are the single largest category of workplace injuries. There are many risk factors that can lead to the development of musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) in the workplace. The root cause of many MSDs is exposure to these factors over a period of time. The effects of MSDs on productivity and the bottom line of your company are far-reaching and extensive.
Both work-related and individual-related risk factors come into play when measuring the risk of musculoskeletal disorder development. Here are some main factors to consider:
- High task repetition
- Forceful exertions
- Repetitive or sustained awkward postures
These factors can lead to chronic pain, especially in the upper body, such as lower back, neck, shoulder, and upper limb pain.
- Non-optimal work practices
- Overall health habits
- Inadequate rest and recovery
- Poor nutrition, fitness, and hydration
All of these factors put workers at greater risk of fatigue outweighing the ability for them to recover.
Psychosocial factors such as job dissatisfaction, low supervisor support, high scheduling demands, working hours, and supervisor relationships also come into play when analyzing the risk of MSD development. Your company should remember to include these when performing an assessment.
In order to manage these risks, one must first identify and define the potential risks and then review them to determine the probability of negative outcomes. Then place controls designed to eliminate or mitigate these risks, and monitor their effectiveness. A 2012 statement from the International Commission on Occupational Health says that the goal of workplace risk management should be to reduce “musculoskeletal discomfort at the risk of worsening with work activities, and that affects work ability or quality of life.” With 37 percent of all back pain coming from work related activities worldwide, it is imperative that companies have systems in place that reduce the risk of MSD development.
In conclusion, it is clear that assessment of risk factors that can result in the development of MSDs in the workplace is essential. There are many different factors that can lead to the development of MSDs, and your company should look at both physical and non-physical factors when assessing overall MSD risk. Overall, your company should look at musculoskeletal disorder risk management as something that should be diligently addressed and not looked over. Your employees will thank you for it, you will save money in the long run, and your business will be more productive.