New research continues to link certain workplace or task characteristics to musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs).
Some critics of ergonomics claim that there is no scientific evidence linking workplace or task characteristics to injuries and illnesses such as disc degeneration, shoulder sprain and strain, tendonitis, or carpal tunnel syndrome. Organizations including the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) disagree, however, citing some very specific risk factors for injury.
Along with companies like Ford, Boeing, and 3M, large insurers are also seeing the cost benefits of injury prevention through good ergonomics. Current research continues to support their thinking.
A survey of over 30,000 workers found that as the amount of working hours spent in repeated strenuous
physical activities and in work with repeated bending, twisting, or reaching increased, so did the prevalence of back pain. Researchers note that other, psychosocial, issues may factor into the findings. Researchers also note that carpentry, and nursing aides, orderlies, and attendants had the highest rates of back pain.
These findings correspond with recent trends by OSHA to target nursing home facilities for ergonomics guidelines.
A second study found a clear relationship between pushing and pulling in a task and shoulder injury.
Low back complaints were also, though less consistently associated with pushing/pulling tasks.
The studies can be found in the October Issue of the journal “Occupational and Environmental Medicine”.