Magazine article Occupational Hazards

Scientists Confirm MSDs Can Be Attributed to Specific Jobs

Magazine article Occupational Hazards

Scientists Confirm MSDs Can Be Attributed to Specific Jobs

Article excerpt

Findings issued in a report from the National Research Council and the Institute of Medicine of the National Academies shows that musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) of the lower back and upper extremities can be attributed to particular jobs and working conditions, including heavy lifting, repetitive motion and stressful work environments.

Each year, these disorders affect about 1 million workers and cost the nation between $45 billion and $54 billion in compensation costs, lost wages and decreased productivity.

The study indicates that these problems can be reduced with well-designed intervention programs.

"Scientifically based prevention efforts can be effective in the workplace, substantially reducing the risk of job-related musculoskeletal disorders," said Jeremiah Barondess, chair of the panel that wrote the report and president of the New York Academy of Medicine in New York City. "However, the connection between the workplace and these disorders is complex, partly because of the individual characteristics of workers, such as age, gender and lifestyle."

Lower back pain, tendinitis, nonspecific wrist complaints and carpal tunnel syndrome are among the disorders that have considerable social and economic impact, with back pain making up the majority of shared problems, according to the report.

Scientific evidence and industry data strongly indicate that properly implemented strategies to reduce the incidence, severity and consequences of work-related MSDs can be effective, the panel said.

"A magic bullet does not exist, but successful programs can be found in a variety of job settings, and they take into account procedures, equipment and characteristics specific to the organization," researchers said.

When OSHA began making plans to Implement its ergonomics standard, Congress asked the National Academies to review scientific evidence on work-related causes of MSDs, as well as prevention strategies.

The panel evaluated scientific literature on the topic, invited outside experts to share insights at its meetings and visited two Ford Motor Co. plants as part of its research.

There is a strong relationship between back disorders and jobs where workers manually lift materials, frequently bend and twist their bodies, or experience whole-body vibration from motor vehicles, the report showed. …

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