When people think of work-related injuries, images of broken bones and occupational diseases may come to mind. Although these are prevalent, less obvious musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) that develop from working conditions are the most common. Lower back and shoulder injuries, carpal tunnel, trigger finger, and tendonitis may not be easy to see, but employees can experience severe symptoms from them. The culprit in most of these syndromes is poor workplace ergonomics. Over time, it can lead to chronic pain and disability.
The word ergonomics is used by the U.S. military to describe human factors in engineering. The field of ergonomics focuses on adjusting an employee’s work environment to reduce the risk of work-related injuries, including MSDs. Ergonomically designed chairs, computer mouses, workplace stations, and other equipment can not only prevent injuries, they can increase worker productivity and reduce health insurance claims.
Oftentimes, workers will not recognize the signs of an MSD. Someone with a sore wrist or nagging back pain might think that it is from daily activities around the house. When symptoms are present, it is important to get checked out by a doctor to rule out an ergonomic injury. Numbness or tingling in the extremities, dull or sharp pains, ongoing weakness, burning sensations, and a loss of coordination can all be warning signs. Other signs to be aware of include a loss of range of motion, clumsiness, muscle cramping, and cold extremities.
There are several classifications for these injuries, including Repetitive Motion Injuries and Cumulative Trauma Disorders and Injuries. These injuries can be related to poor ergonomic conditions at work but can also be caused by conditions at home, including spending great amounts of time on a computer or poor posture when performing house work.
Many companies realize the importance of ergonomics, but not all. Employees that are concerned about their workplace environments should speak to their supervisors or human resources departments. To improve ergonomics, certain factors should be considered. Every workplace is different, so the physical demands of the work, along with associated required skills and risks, should be considered. Variables like biological or chemical agents on the premises, cold, heat, and noise must also be evaluated.
Basic employee comfort and mobility are also essential for good ergonomics, and many new products have been designed to meet these needs over the past few decades. Sometimes, simply giving an employee scheduled breaks or installing air purifiers will help. Costs need to be investigated as well, since smaller companies may not have the budgets to completely revamp their offices and job sites. Since companies are responsible for keeping their employees safe on the job, they need to make this a priority.
If you are suffering from a work-related ergonomic injury, contact a knowledgeable Allegheny County Workers’ Compensation lawyer at AlpernSchubert P.C. We will fight to obtain the compensation you deserve. Fill out an online form or call us at 412-765-1888 today. Located in Pittsburgh, we service clients throughout Allegheny County, Lawrence County, Washington County, and Western Pennsylvania.