Musculoskeletal Disorders and Workplace Factors

Critical review of the relationship between musculoskeletal disorders and workplace factors such as job design and work organization.Musculoskeletal Disorders and Workplace Factors

Download PDF of “Musculoskeletal Disorders and Workplace Factors”

Musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) are injuries or disorders that affect the muscles, tendons, ligaments, nerves, or other soft tissues of the body. MSDs can cause pain, stiffness, numbness, tingling, or reduced function in the affected areas. MSDs are common among workers who perform tasks that involve physical factors such as force, repetition, posture, or vibration. Some examples of MSDs are neck pain, shoulder tendinitis,  carpal tunnel syndrome, and low back pain.

NIOSH Review Findings

The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) has conducted a critical review of the epidemiologic evidence for work-related MSDs of the neck, upper extremity, and low back . The review summarizes the scientific literature on the relationship between MSDs and workplace factors. For instance, job design, work organization, and psychosocial factors. The review also evaluates the quality and strength of the evidence. To clarify, it identifies gaps in knowledge, and provides recommendations for future research and prevention.

The main findings of the review are:

  • There is a large body of credible epidemiologic research that shows a consistent relationship between MSDs and certain physical factors, especially at higher exposure levels.
  • The evidence is strongest for work-related MSDs of the hand/wrist, followed by the shoulder and the elbow. The evidence is less consistent for work-related MSDs of the neck and the low back.
  • There is limited evidence for the role of individual factors, such as age, gender, and anthropometry, in modifying the risk of MSDs. There is also limited evidence for the role of psychosocial factors, such as job satisfaction, job stress, and social support, in influencing the occurrence or severity of MSDs.
  • There is a need for more research on the dose-response relationship between physical factors and MSDs, the interaction between physical and psychosocial factors, the effectiveness of ergonomic interventions in reducing MSDs, and the cost-benefit analysis of ergonomic programs.

Things to Remember

The review provides useful information for employers, workers, health professionals, and researchers who are interested in preventing work-related MSDs. The review also highlights the importance of ergonomics in designing tasks, work spaces, controls, displays, tools, lighting, and equipment to fit workers’ physical capabilities and limitations.
You can read the full review online or download it as a PDF file . You can also find more information about ergonomics and MSDs on the NIOSH website.


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Ergonomic Guidelines for Shipyards

Ergonomics Guidelines for Shipyards helps reduce shipyard related MSDs which results in a safer work environment with improved productivityErgonomic Guidelines for Shipyards (OSHA)

Download Booklet PDF  • Welcome to our blog article Ergonomic Guidelines for Shipyards where we delve briefly into the intricacies of shipyard work environments. Shipyards are dynamic workplaces that handle a wide range of vessels, including tankers, cargo carriers, fishing vessels, military ships, and barges. These versatile facilities undertake various tasks such as new ship construction, repair, maintenance, and shipbreaking (demolition). Shipyard work involves a multitude of activities, such as fabricating and forming large steel plates, beams, and pipes, as well as conducting painting and coating operations. Additionally, there are outfitting activities like electrical work, sheet metal work, and propulsion system maintenance. Welding is also commonplace, necessitating grinding and chipping of welds.

It’s important to note that most shipyard employees work outdoors, enduring challenging conditions like extreme temperatures. The scale of shipyards can vary, with smaller ones employing fewer than one hundred individuals and larger ones boasting 5,000 employees or more. Shipyard work is divided into three categories: shop work, yard work, and ship work. Fabrication generally commences in a shop separate from the vessel, mirroring certain manufacturing or maintenance activities. However, final assembly takes place on the vessel itself, within varying and unique environments. While some repair and maintenance work can be done off the vessel, the majority must be carried out onboard.

Work-Related MSDs of Shipyard Employees

Shipyard employees may experience early indicators of musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) such as numbness, tingling, pain, restricted joint movement, or soft tissue swelling. Research has revealed that shipyard employees frequently report persistent or recurring shoulder pain, often associated with rotator cuff tendonitis. Lower extremity MSDs, strains, sprains of the low back muscles, and related disorders are also prevalent amongst shipyard workers. Moreover, individuals who utilize vibrating tools often exhibit symptoms of hand-arm vibration syndrome, colloquially known as “vibration white finger.”

Certain MSDs can develop gradually over time due to intensive work. When employees are required to assume awkward or static body postures for prolonged periods, they may be at risk of developing MSDs. Additionally, physical demands outside the workplace can contribute to or cause MSDs. Genetic factors, gender, age, and other elements may also play a role in the development of MSDs. Significantly, reports of MSDs have been linked to certain psychosocial factors such as job dissatisfaction, monotony, and limited job control. It’s important to note that the guidelines primarily address physical risk factors within the workplace.

Ergonomic Risk Factors

Ergonomics-related risk factors prevalent among shipyard employees include force, repetition, awkward and prolonged static body postures, contact stress, vibration, and cold temperatures combined with the aforementioned risk factors. The presence of these risk factors in a job increases the likelihood of injury. However, it’s crucial to understand that the existence of these risk factors does not automatically mean that employees will develop MSDs.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has visited shipyards that have implemented ergonomic solutions, yielding significant success in reducing work-related MSDs. Creating a safer and more comfortable work environment has also resulted in additional benefits, such as decreased absenteeism, increased efficiency and productivity, decreased fatigue, and improved employee morale.

Thank you for joining us on this informative journey into shipyard work environments. Stay tuned for more insights and tips!

More Tools & Resources from Peak Ergonomics
Contact Us About Reducing Workplace Injuries
Healthy Employees are the Bottom Line! – Learn More!