Musculoskeletal disorder (MSD) injuries such as back strains and sprains, carpal tunnel syndrome, rotator cuff tears, and tendonitis are the largest category of workplace injuries. Often known as ergonomic injuries, they result from awkward or static postures, forceful exertions like heavy lifting, or repetitive movements. The National Safety Council (NSC) reports that MSDs cause 30 percent of unwanted days away from work and cost employers approximately $20 billion annually. They are a significant challenge to manage, know no boundaries, and pose a risk to workers in every industry.
A recent article in Risk & Insurance highlighted how Rehrig Pacific Company has successfully reduced MSD injuries by 86 percent. The company, which manufactures wheeled containers for waste hauling and recycling management, operates 24/7, 365 days a year. Injuries would often occur when the only medical options were emergency departments or urgent care. The result was costly and ineffective care. An emergency department physician is trained to triage and stabilize an injury, often prescribes medications, rest, and days away from work or refers the worker to a specialist.
With the help of an injury preventive services company, Rehrig Pacific transformed their program around four principles:
To prove the program’s worth and engender buy-in, the company had a strategic rollout. The telephonic nurse triage began in 2019 and in late 2019, it began offering in-clinic first aid early intervention followed by on-site first aid early intervention in Erie in early 2020. Close collaboration with safety managers is key to success.
The issue of MSDs in the workplace received widespread attention in June 2021, when Amazon teamed up with the NSC. Together they’ve formed the MSD Solutions Lab, a strategic initiative to address this critical issue by engaging key stakeholders, conducting research, identifying new technology, innovating solutions, and scaling the results so all workplaces can benefit. The lab offers a growing suite of free resources to help companies implement or strengthen a workplace MSD strategy.