Musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) continue to be a major type of loss in today's workplace. Bernardino Ramazzini made one of the first published mention of these injuries as "diseases of those who do fine work" in 1700. In the mid-1980s, the attention of safety professionals and employers expanded to identify cumulative trauma and repetitive motion injuries as an increasing issue and exposure in today's workplace. In Humantech's recent benchmarking studies, employers indicated that MSDs, the common term for these types of injuries today, account for 35% to 72% of their recordable injuries. Upon further investigation, we found that the approaches used to manage these injuries range widely, from reactive to proactive approaches based on personal wellness, fitness, and individual behaviors, to improving the ergonomics of the workplace.

This presentation provides an overview of the five most common strategies used to manage MSDs in the workplace, identifies the pros and cons for each, illustrates the investment and value, and contrasts their effectiveness. The purpose of the presentation is to broaden the safety professional's perspective and understanding of MSD management methods, and to help them identify new opportunities to improve their management of these losses.

Based on published articles and benchmarking studies, we've identified the five most common approaches used today to manage MSDs:

  • Fix the person

  • Fit the person to the task

  • Change the person

  • Change how the person performs work

  • Change the work and workplace

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