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1. What is ergonomics?
Ergonomics is the science of fitting the job to the worker. When there is a mismatch between the physical requirements of the job and the physical capacity of the worker, work-related musculoskeletal disorders (WMSDs) can result. Workers who must repeat the same motion throughout their workday, who must do their work in an awkward position, who must use a great deal of force to perform their jobs, who must repeatedly lift heavy objects, and those who face a combination of these risk factors are the most likely to develop WMSDs.
2. How serious a problem are WMSDs?
In 1996, U.S. workers experienced more than 647,000 lost workday WMSDs. WMSDs now account for 34 percent of all lost workday injuries and illnesses. These injuries cost businesses $15 to $20 billion in workersÕ compensation costs each year. Indirect costs may run as high as $45 to $60 billion.
3. What is OSHA doing to address WMSDs?
OSHA is developing a program that calls for employers to establish ergonomics programs to prevent WMSDs. The agency has identified significant problems for workers involved in production operations in manufacturing and manual handling throughout general industry. Job-related musculoskeletal disorders also occur in other jobs. At a minimum, employers that have workers experiencing injuries need to address the problem.
4. What components should an ergonomics program include?
OSHA has identified the following critical elements:
5. What can be done to prevent WMSDs?
Real solutions have been demonstrated in workplaces of all sizes across a broad range of industries. Many employers have developed effective ergonomics programs and common sense solutions to address WMSDs in their workplaces. Often WMSDs can be prevented by simple and inexpensive changes in the workplace:
6. What are the Keys to success?