February 2018 Newsletter:

Don’t be a Hero - Report that MSD

Working at a computer all day may not seem a strenuous task, but it definitely has its hazards that can create problems for workers if not addressed quickly and properly.

As ergonomists, we’re always looking for the 4 main ergonomic hazards: force, awkward posture, static posture, and repetition. Office work can include 3 of these hazards: poor and/or static postures and repetition. All too often, these hazards go unaddressed and can lead to a dreaded musculoskeletal disorder (MSD), but it doesn’t have to be this way.


EXAMPLE A: John, spends 6.5 hours of his 8-hour workday seated at his desk, and has done so for the past 4 years. One day, he experienced a twinge in his lower back but didn’t think much of it, chalking it up to sleeping poorly the night before. Two months later, the discomfort is progressively getting worse and he is now seeking medical treatment. This provided only minimal relief, so John decided to ask his manager for an ergonomic assessment.

EXAMPLE B: John’s colleague, Joan, also spends 6.5 hours at her desk, and just happened to start the same day as John. She also experienced lower back discomfort, but when she felt pain 2 days in a row, she decided to ask her manager for an ergonomic assessment. She received an assessment and some equipment to improve her set-up and has now been pain free for the 2 months.

In hindsight, it’s clear that Joan’s approach was correct. So, why is it that when we experience discomfort, “It will go away on its own” pops into our mind first, rather than “What can I do NOW?”.


With ergonomics, early reporting is key to reducing discomfort, claim costs and lost-time.

The best approach is to work from a proactive standpoint. Have a Certified Professional conduct training and/or assessments for your staff BEFORE an injury or discomfort occurs. You should also consider including them in the process when you are selecting new equipment for an office or workstation. A professional can make sure you get the right equipment, that will fit the most people, the first time.

If you are working from a reactive standpoint, ensure you are creating an open environment for individuals to report their discomfort. The more ‘hoops’ folks must jump through to get an ergonomic assessment (i.e. doctor’s note, discussion with manager, transfer request to H&S) the less likely they are going to bother until it’s too late. When, in actuality, early reporting is best for everyone; it reduces discomfort faster and more efficiently AND, even with the expense of an assessment and equipment, it generally costs less than an injury claim.

By creating the right environment and giving our staff the right tools, we can help them take care of their bodies and in turn help ourselves manage claim costs and improve worker morale, because in the end, early reporting of the onset of MSDs is best for all stakeholders.

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