What is an Ergonomic Injury?
Ergonomic injuries are those injuries caused by the presence of ergonomic risk factors, including:
- Awkward or sustained postures
- Forceful exertion or strain
- Contact pressure
- Exposure to vibration
- Exposure to heat or cold
It is often a combination of these risk factors that, over time, can lead to pain, injury, and disability. An injury can occur when there is ongoing exposure to ergonomic risk factors. A single event may place a stress on body tissues, yet the exposure is too low for traumatic injury. Given time, the tissues are able recover. Repeated exposure to these risk factors, on the other hand, may interfere with the body's normal healing process and produce disproportionate responses and lead to an ergonomic injury.
Ergonomic injuries may be referred to as Repetitive Stress Injuries (RSIs), Repetitive Motion Injuries (RMIs), Musculoskeletal Disorders (MSDs), Cumulative Trauma Disorders (CTDs), or Cumulative Trauma Injuries (CTIs). OSHA and NIOSH typically use the term MSD or Musculoskeletal Disorder.
Ergonomic injuries or MSDs can affect the muscles, nerves, tendons, ligaments, joints, cartilage and spinal discs. They can be directly or indirectly related to job duties or the work environment. Non-work activities and environments can also impact MSDs. For example, the average employee may spend 6-8 hours of the work day on the computer. With features such as internet shopping, web bill paying, and email that employee will likely spend 2-4 additional hours per day on his or her personal computer. As we spend more and more time on the computer each day, it is imperative that we take the steps to be sure our computer (both at work and at home) is set up to prevent these Musculoskeletal Disorders.
Ergonomics is not the problem
- it is the Solution!
What are the signs and symptoms of an Ergonomic Injury or MSD?
- Pain in the fingers, wrists, or other parts of the body: may include a dull aching pain, a sharp stabbing pain, or even a burning sensation
- Tingling or numbness, particularly in the hands or fingers
- Swelling, inflammation, or joint stiffness
- Loss of muscle function or weakness
- Discomfort or pain in the shoulders, neck, or upper or lower back
- Extremities turning white or feeling unusually cold
- General feeling of muscle tightness, cramping, or discomfort
- Clumsiness or loss of coordination
- Range of motion loss
- Discomfort when making certain movements
How Can I keep myself safe?
- Recognize the symptoms of an MSD
- Report any symptoms or concerns to your supervisor- early intervention means a better outcome
- Participate in Ergo i-SEAT, UCR's online ergonomic self assessment and training program for computer users
- Install CtrlWork on your computer and take those healthy stretch breaks
- Follow our ergonomic guidelines for computer users
- Complete a Laboratory Ergonomics Checklist
- Be sure that you have the right tools for your computer workstation and laboratory
- Contact your ergonomics program for a laboratory or office workstation evaluation