Musculoskeletal disorders, or MSDs, are a common injury for many industries, and a new report from the National Safety Council (NSC) gives insight into how to prevent them and reduce their impact.
NSC’s MSD Solutions Lab released a new report Sept. 14, “Preventing work-related musculoskeletal disorders: A systemic review of current interventions and future research directions.” According to the NSC, this report provides “many interventions used to prevent and reduce the impact of these injuries on the job.”
247K injuries to workers, cost employers $17B
Workers in the private sector experienced more than 247,000 MSD injuries resulting in days away from work, the NSC reported in 2020. This not only took a toll on the workers, it also affected businesses, costing them almost $17 billion per year.
“MSDs significantly undermine business efficiencies and workers’ abilities to live their fullest lives – and more must be done to reduce these chronic, debilitating injuries,” said Paul Vincent, NSC executive vice president of workplace practice. “This white paper seeks to offer solutions to this pervasive issue based on the latest research by providing organizations of all sizes with promising intervention strategies to help prevent these injuries.”
One-size-fits-all approach isn’t viable
Researchers pulled together information from more than 60 scientific studies and academic publications after identifying 13,500 potential articles on MSDs. The report examines interventions across the 10 most afflicted industries to find safety initiatives that are the most effective at reducing MSDs.
One thing that stood out to researchers is “that, consistent across multiple studies, interventions that used assistive devices, exoskeletons or employer-backed physical activity programs had the potential to be effective at reducing MSD discomfort, pain and injury.”
And programs that used physical modifications with cognitive processes and organizational change management forms of prevention had higher levels of effectiveness than those that used physical modifications alone.
This demonstrates that a one-size-fits-all approach to MSD prevention isn’t going to work, so employers must continually examine their ergonomics programs and involve their workers when doing so.
More research needed
The report has also led NSC to call for more extensive research into:
- use of innovative product designs, such as active suspension seats, as well as the right patient handling equipment and devices to reduce exposure to MSD risks
- the fact that wearables and exoskeletons are perceived to have many workplace benefits, but some studies cite adverse effects on body parts not stabilized by the exoskeleton
- MSD prevention measures among diverse populations, and
- better understanding of the effectiveness of physical activities such as stretching, walking, yoga and Pilates across various industries.
This research is ongoing and the NSC warns that it’s “subject to change in the presence of newly introduced data and publications.”