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Is your office a minefield of musculoskeletal disorder threats?

Musculoskeletal disorders can occur in any industry. Regardless of whether you are working as a member of an assembly line in a manufacturing plant or capturing data in an office, repetitive motions can cause injuries. However, the California Division of Occupational Safety and Health says good ergonomic practices can limit MSDs.

The practice of ergonomics fit the job to the employee by changing the environment to allow that worker to do his or her job without harm to muscles, tendons, nerves, ligaments and blood vessels. Modified workspaces can limit hazardous body movements.

Risk elements to eliminate in the office environment

Musculoskeletal disorders include tendinitis, carpal tunnel syndrome, lower back injuries and other muscle injuries. Ergonomists have identified the following risk factors that increase the threat of soft tissue injuries:

  • Repetitive motions:If your job involves the repetition of the same motions, it can cause long-term, tormenting conditions. If you work in an office environment in which your duties include typing and working with a mouse for hours on end, these movements can cause trauma to overused joints and the tissue surrounding them.
  • Static loading: You may be unfamiliar with this term although it represents risks that are prevalent in many workplaces. Static loading refers to blood circulation problems and muscle tension that result from tasks that require you to spend long periods in a motionless body position that strains your entire body.
  • Sustained exertions: This unfamiliar term involves the continuous tension when you have to hold a body part in a static position. Examples include keeping your head in a static position while looking at the monitor for hours, or holding down the keyboard's shift key for extended periods.
  • Awkward postures: If your job requires you to maintain an uncomfortable position or body posture, it could lead to MSDs. Having to lean forward or stretch in any direction to do your job can be hazardous, and long periods of cradling the phone between your shoulder and your ear can cause damage over time.
  • Mechanical contact stress: This type of stress results from continued pressure on or by a hard object. You could experience this stress if your elbow leans on the hard surface of your chair's armrest for hours, or if your wrist presses against the edge of the desk while you work with the mouse. Any sustained contact pressure on soft tissues like tendons, blood vessels or nerves can be damaging.
  • Forceful actions:You may not even realize that you use excessive force while performing some tasks. Grabbing heavy files, hammering the keys on the keyboard or holding the mouse in a tight grip might not be necessary and could lead to fatigue, swelling, and strains in ligaments and muscles.

Is your office dangerous territory?

If your employer has not had your office ergonomically assessed and modified to limit musculoskeletal disorders, you might be building up soft tissue trauma without even realizing it. When you first become aware of pain or discomfort, it might be wise to consult with a doctor to ensure prompt treatment that might prevent long-term or chronic pain. However, do not fear the financial consequences because you might be entitled to workers' compensation benefits to cover medical expenses and lost wages, and you are free to utilize experienced legal counsel.

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