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Health, Safety & Wellness - Musculoskeletal Disorders (MSDs)


Health & Safety Moment - Musculoskeletal Disorders (MSDs)

Musculoskeletal Disorders (MSDs) are injuries and disorders of the musculoskeletal system (muscles, tendons, nerves, joints, ligaments). Examples include carpal tunnel syndrome, tendonitis, thoracic outlet syndrome, and tension neck syndrome. They may be caused or aggravated by various hazards in the workplace. MSDs do not include musculoskeletal injuries or disorders that are the direct result of a fall, struck by or against, caught in or on, or motor vehicle collision, etc. Musculoskeletal disorders usually result from activities which are frequent and repetitive, or activities with awkward postures. Almost all work requires the use of the arms and hands; therefore, most MSDs affect the hand, wrists, elbows, neck and shoulders. Work using the legs can lead to MSDs of the legs, hips, ankles, and feet.

Musculoskeletal disorders are generally caused by poor or inadequate ergonomic environments. Ergonomics is the science of matching the job to the worker and the product to the user. This includes situations such as lifting, lighting, office/desk set up, etc. that may contribute to injury.

Common Hazards for MSDs or Examples of Poor Ergonomics include:

·       Repetition

·       Force

·       Speed of movement

·       Lack of recovery

·       Fixed or constrained body positions

·       Awkward posture

Other Potential Hazards for MSDs include:

·       Contact stress

·       Hand/arm vibration

·       Whole-body vibration

·       Extreme temperatures


At a high enough level, any one MSD hazard can cause an injury (e.g., lifting a heavy box just once), however the risk increases when more MSD hazards are present (e.g., lifting the heavy box repeatedly overhead).

There are many ways to control MSD hazards, including:

·       Engineering controls:

o   Modifying a workstation

o   Providing new equipment or tools

o   Changing the existing equipment or tools

o   Modifying the work process

o   Mechanization

o   Workplace design

o   Tools and equipment design

·       Administrative controls:

o   Changing work schedules

o   Adjusting staffing

o   Training workers

o   Job rotation

o   Job enlargement and enrichment

o   Team work

If you have questions, concerns or any occupational health & safety inquiries, please email ohsmohawk@mohawkcollege.ca