The link between musculoskeletal disorders and workplace safety

Most Maryland workers are familiar with the term "ergonomics." Basically, this is a field of study designed to reduce injuries by improving the design of many items to make them less harmful for human use. Some good examples of ergonomic items in the workplace are cushioned floor mats for people who stand in areas for long periods of time.

One important goal of incorporating ergonomics into the workplace is to reduce the instances of musculoskeletal disorders. MSDs adversely affect the muscles, nerves and tendons in many workers across a wide variety of industries and occupations. Carpal tunnel syndrome, tendinitis and rotator cuff problems are all examples of MSDs. These types of injuries are a leading cause of worker injury and illness in the U.S.

There are some industries that place workers at greater risk of developing MSDs. The fields of health care, transportation, warehousing and construction are just a few examples of these types of industries. Basically, MSDs can occur whenever workers are repetitively having to lift heavy items, work in awkward positions or reach for items overhead. Here are some facts about MSDs:

-- The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported in 2011 that 33 percent of all worker injury and illness cases at some connection to MSDs -- a whopping 387,820 cases.

-- Employers who implement ergonomic processes into their workplaces can effectively reduce the risk of their employees developing MSDs, thus saving money by reducing overall costs.

-- Research supports the beneficial effects of employers providing training about MSDs and ergonomics to employees. Workers who have sufficient training are more likely to identify potential MSD hazards throughout the workplace.

There are a few things you should know if you suffer from an MSD that you developed at work. Maryland's workers' compensation laws provide certain benefits for victims of workplace accidents or illnesses. In some cases, injured or ill workers can receive partial wage replacement payments and medical benefits.

It's also important for you to know that sometimes insurers may dispute the validity of your workplace injury or illness claims. You can retain an experienced Maryland workers' compensation attorney to assist you during any appeals process. An attorney can also work on your behalf to see that you receive the appropriate level of care for your injuries and any occupational retraining you may require.

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