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#Oshtober: Supporting WMSDs and the Effects of Poor Manual Material Handling

RoSPA puts the spotlight on musculoskeletal disorders and the importance of following safe manual material handling practices and procedures.

Work-related musculoskeletal disorders (WMSDs) affect the muscles, tendons, ligaments, and nerves, and are usually the result of overuse and repetitive movements. It is a problem around the world, totaling up to 43% of all lost-time claims in Canada and 34% in both the United Kingdom and the US.

Every year, the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA) uses the month of October to highlight the impact of accidents in the workplace. Last year's inaugural Don't "Fall" For It campaign featured the stories of Jason Anker and Paul Blanchard, both of whom became confined to wheelchairs after work-related falls.

In 2016, 41% of all work-related illness cases and an estimated 8.8 millionworking days were lost due to WMSDs in the UK, making awareness a much-needed ally to at-risk workers.

According to Karen McDonnell, RoSPA's Occupational Safety and Health Policy Adviser, not enough is being done to prevent WMSDs from happening in the first place.

Accounting for 41% of all work-related ill-health claims and 34% of all working days lost due to ill health...We need to be effectively tackling the root causes of MSDs and encouraging employers to adopt a whole person approach to prevention...towards sustainable working lives because these types of accidents don't have to happen.

And the key to preventing WMSDs could lay with safe manual material handling practices.

What does poor manual material handling have to do with it?

Well...everything!

Poor manual material handling (MMH) often leads to workplace injuries, especially the neck, back, arms and legs. While slips, falls, and collisions are partially to blame, most of these injuries occur from repetitive movements and constant stress on the body. What may start out as occasional aches and pains while working can rapidly turn into chronic pain or WMSDs.

Many factors contribute to injuries from MMH. While weight may seem like an obvious aspect of concern, the duration and repetition of the task are also major factors in workplace-related injuries.

WMSDs take on many forms but the symptoms usually include pain, achiness, and fatigue in the affected limb. These symptoms can be gradual, appearing only when work is being performed, and gradually decrease worker productivity until they either need to stop performing certain tasks or, in extreme cases, find new employment altogether. Stopping at the first signs of pain is one of the easiest ways to avoid injury, and, potentially, WMSDs down the way.

Common WMSDs include:

  • Tendonitis
  • Carpal Tunnel
  • Tension Neck
  • Epicondylitis
  • Thoracic Outlet Syndrome

Through #OSHtober: Can You Handle "It"?, RoSPA hopes that there will be a better understanding of how to prevent these conditions and a more conscious effort by employers to create workspaces that accommodate the individual worker, and processes that will help eliminate the repetitive nature of tasks or physical strain on the worker.

RoSPA is a member organization in the UK that provides services and support to workplaces who are working towards a healthier and safer workplace culture. Let's help them spread the word about the effects of poor MMH and WMSDs. Use #OSHtober and tell us how your company is using proper manual material handling procedures to reduce the risk of WMSDs.

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