Ergonomic Injuries at Work: Symptoms, Examples & Prevention

It’s not just Amazon. The Seattle-based online retail sales behemoth is frequently found in the headlines. Unfortunately, it’s often for violating worker safety standards in the eyes of the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). Some of these violations are related to ergonomics injuries. But Amazon is not the only employer that can move towards creating safer working environments. 

Everyone, from nurses to plumbers, can face ergonomic injuries in the workplace. But what are ergonomic injuries, and how do you prevent them? These injuries have nothing to do with being in shape. The most active athlete and the most sedentary secretary can each have a safer workday by preventing ergonomic injuries through good workplace design and body movements. Let’s take a look at the different types of injuries that can arise, symptoms, examples, and injury prevention in the workplace. 

What are ergonomic injuries?

You may have heard of or even experienced some of the musculoskeletal injuries OSHA lists as examples. They include muscle strains and lower back injuries, carpal tunnel syndrome, tendinitis, and more. Created by repeated motions over time, these injuries are insidious. They can manifest slowly, but they can also be made worse by ignoring their signs and symptoms and continuing the movements that cause them. 

Symptoms of Ergonomic Injuries in the Workplace

Common symptoms of ergonomic injury should not be ignored. Unfortunately, many busy workers see themselves as unable to ask for effective remedies for those symptoms. Hobbled by circumstances, these employees might try to work through them. Instead, these symptoms should be seen as a sign to pause. Swelling, stiffness, and tingling are familiar complaints pointing to a possible injury. So are aches, sharp pains, and weakness you cannot otherwise explain.

Examples of Ergonomic Injuries in the Workplace

Sure. Employees who spend all day on the computer complain of similar injuries. But every occupation is susceptible to ergonomic mistakes. According to OSHA, high-risk occupations for ergonomic injury include nursing, firefighting, and bus driving. What kind of injuries do those professions experience? 

Nurses experience herniated disks and pinched nerves, among other commonly reported bodily traumas. They also suffer from punctures, cuts, and slips. They also trip, fall, and experience strains from reaching and lifting. 

You might imagine that the principal ergonomic concern for firefighters might be related to operating a hose or actual contact with fire or burning structures. Their injuries, instead, often look like overexertion. Their falls and jumps could use some work too, but don’t forget that they perform those movements in extreme settings, as you might imagine. Sprains and strains are extremely common in this line of work. 

High-quality public transportation is a dream for many cities, so what do the bus drivers have to look forward to? Without proper ergonomic support, future bus operators may continue to experience neck and back pain. Sciatica, a painful leg injury, is common, as is pain in the lower back. Vibrations are a major contributor to ergonomic hazards, and a vibrating bus can create the perfect recipe for stress and discomfort. 

Luckily, good preparation and training can drastically reduce workplace injuries. 

Preventing Ergonomic Injuries at Work

It’s a science. Ergonomics promotes comfort and prevents injury over long periods of time whether you or your workspace is static or in motion. The demands of each position can also differ greatly, so it’s important to seek advice from a consultant with a broad base of knowledge to help your team proactively design your workspace. 

There are many kinds of workdays, but for those sitting at a computer all day, as our readers may be, remember to keep your monitor about an arm’s length away from your face. Your knees should stay about level with your hips as you sit, so you may need to add some blocks or a footrest under your feet so they can rest on something solid at the same time. Your feet should not swing free, and your knees should not be bent and raised like a tall person in a cramped car’s back seat. Also, remember to keep your elbows at a 90-degree angle, or slightly greater, and your wrists in a straight line out from your arms. You may also apply principles of good ergonomic function beyond your posture as you type to your posture as you reach around you, but think of these basic guidelines as a starting place. 

Our team at Biofunctional Health is happy to visit your location and work with you to offer tailored, easy-to-implement recommendations and guidance. The difference between good and poor ergonomics can make all the difference to new, developed, or growing businesses of all types. As with so many things, prevention is key.