Ergonomic Injury

Last updated: March 25, 2019

What Does Ergonomic Injury Mean?

Ergonomic injuries are injuries caused by exposure to ergonomic risk factors, such as repetitive strain, prolonged exposure to abnormal temperatures or vibration, prolonged awkward posture, or forceful exertion or pressure upon a particular body part.

These injuries result from tasks that are not particularly harmful when exposure to the risk factor is only short term. The risk of an ergonomic injury increases with the length of exposure to the risk factor, as does the potential severity of the risk.

Safeopedia Explains Ergonomic Injury

OSHA and NIOSH refer to ergonomic injuries as Musculoskeletal Disorders (MSDs). They may also be known as Repetitive Stress Injuries (RSIs), Repetitive Motion Injuries (RMIs), Cumulative Trauma Disorders (CTDs), or Cumulative Trauma Injuries (CTIs). Injuries that fall under the banner of ergonomic injury include but are not limited to carpal tunnel syndrome, tendinitis, rotator cuff/shoulder injuries, epicondylitis/elbow injuries, trigger finger, muscle strains, and lower back injuries such as pinched nerves.

Ergonomic injuries are among the most common occupational injuries encountered in the workplace and are one of the largest causes of lost work time. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, ergonomic injuries account for 33% of all worker injury and illness cases. Industries at high risk of ergonomic injury are diverse and include construction, food processing, firefighting, office jobs, healthcare, transportation, and warehousing. Ergonomic injuries are a major risk to worker health and may also create broader safety concerns if they limit a worker’s ability to perform potentially dangerous tasks (e.g. handling hazards) in a safe manner.

Workers may be at risk of a significant ergonomic injury even if they are not showing any preliminary symptoms of strain. The onset of an ergonomic injury can be slow if the injury accrues over time or sudden if repetitive stress increases a specific body part’s risk of sudden trauma. In the latter case, the danger to worker health from ergonomic injury may be increased if the worker’s duties involve participation in high-risk tasks.

Ergonomic injury risk factors should be recognized as workplace hazards and accounted for in any workplace safety risk assessment. The risk posed by these hazards can be limited through the implementation of hazard controls such as engineering controls, work practice controls, and personal protective equipment.


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