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This can be done where the preventive measures for a particular ergonomics-related hazard are obvious and have been proven by past experience in that work place or similar work places. In such cases, the process can be "fast-tracked" from Step 3 Methodology to Step 5 Preventive Measures.

The employer shall identify and assess the hazards in the work place, including ergonomics-related hazards, in accordance with the methodology developed under section Many factors must be considered in hazard identification and assessment. The following are some ergonomics-related factors that can cause or contribute to MSI s. When an employee is exposed to two or more factors at the same time, the risk of injury is higher.


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The primary factors that impose physical demands on an employee are force, fixed or awkward postures, contact stress, and repetition. Force is the effort exerted by the employee to do the work. All work requires some level of force and in most cases the work can be done without harmful effects. However, if the force exerted for example, when lifting an extremely heavy object is more than the musculoskeletal system can handle it can lead to injury.

The risk of injury increases if a fairly high level of force is exerted repeatedly over a long period. There is even more risk of injury if the work is also done in an awkward posture for example, lifting objects repeatedly with a twisting motion. In addition to lifting, other common types of work associated with forceful exertion are pushing, pulling, gripping and carrying. Holding things may be more difficult when the hands are cold or the object being manipulated is heavy.

In addition, extra effort may be needed because of the nature of the task to be performed for example, holding a knife to cut through a dense object. Posture refers to the position of a body part, in relation to nearby body parts, during an activity. Joint position inside the comfortable range of motion is known as the neutral position. Awkward posture results when a joint in the body bends or twists excessively, outside the comfortable range shown in the diagram below.

Muscles, ligaments and tendons work harder to support the affected body part when in an awkward posture. The farther a joint moves away from the neutral position, the greater the effort required by the supporting soft tissues. If a posture is held fixed, or static, for a long time, the muscles get tired because the lack of movement stops them from getting enough blood flow to keep them supplied with energy.

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This results in aches and pains. Contact stress occurs when a hard or sharp object comes in contact with the skin. Soft tissues, including nerves and blood vessels, can be injured due to the pressure caused by contact stress. Having the sharp edge of a desk dig into the forearm or wrist while typing. Having ridges on a tool handle dig into the hand when the tool is held tightly. Using the same muscles, tendons and other soft tissues repeatedly with little chance for rest or recovery can lead to musculoskeletal injury when the muscles get tired.

Repetition increases the risk of injury when other factors such as forceful exertion and awkward posture are also present. Highly repetitious tasks can affect large muscles for example, repeatedly lifting and stacking heavy objects as well as small muscles repeatedly operating a small syringe assembly. Small hand tools such as drills and sanders produce vibrations that are transferred to the hands of the employee holding them.

This also happens with larger tools such as chain saws and pneumatic chippers and drills. Depending on the level and frequency of the vibration and the duration of exposure, the nerve and circulatory system in the hands and fingers may be harmed. Exposing cold hands to vibration for example, using a chain saw outside in the winter raises the risk of hand-arm vibration syndrome. When a worker is sitting or standing on a vibrating surface, such as a surface directly attached to a large diesel engine, the vibration can be transmitted to his whole body.

The same thing occurs when driving vehicles over rough surfaces.

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Depending on the level, frequency and duration of exposure, whole-body vibration can contribute to back pain and performance problems. When exposed to cold, muscles and tendons become less flexible and do not work as efficiently. The blood circulation in the hands and arms is reduced and the worker will lose some of the feeling in his hands and fingers. The worker will have to use more grip force to grasp objects.

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The increased effort can lead to greater strain on muscles and tendons. Working in a hot or humid environment also imposes strain on the body. It increases the body temperature and causes dehydration, leading to muscle tiredness. People working in commercial kitchens or working outside during the summer are exposed to hot, humid work environments. Work procedures and organization of work can minimize the harmful effects of the factors listed above.

For example, physically demanding tasks can be spread among more employees through job rotation, thereby reducing the demands placed on any one person. Outside work during the hot summer months can be scheduled to begin early and finish early in the day, thereby reducing the heat load on employees. Other possibilities are for employees to pace themselves when doing physically demanding tasks and for employers to phase out piecework.

When work procedures and organization of work do not take the work environment and the physical demands of the tasks into consideration, there is a higher risk of injury.

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When working in hazardous environments or responding to emergencies, workers must use various kinds of personal protective equipment. Waterproof coveralls that do not "breathe" can add to stress from heat. The filters in air purifying respirators increase the physical demands involved in breathing by cutting down on air flow.

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Using a self-contained breathing apparatus can add significant weight and bulk, making it harder to climb stairs and manoeuvre around objects. Shape, bulkiness, surface texture and availability of handles are some of the characteristics that affect how easy it is to pick up and move materials, goods or things. For example, things that are wet and slippery can be hard to hold. The characteristics of people and animals have a similar effect. Unfortunately, people and animals do not come with handles. They can be heavy and awkward to lift or move.

In addition, both people and animals can be highly unpredictable. They may startle when touched or struggle to get away. This increases the risk to employees whose work involves manual handling of people or animals.

Module 1 - Guide on the prevention of Musculoskeletal Injury (MSI)

Characteristics of the work space, such as layout, can increase the physical demands of the work activities. For example, employees may have to reach to get materials they need, or they may use improper postures or body mechanics because they do not have enough space to move around. Features of tools and equipment, such as weight, handle position and vibration, can increase the risk of MSI s. The methodology used in Step 3 will identify the tasks with ergonomics-related hazards.

These hazards may only be potential hazards, or they may already have caused an MSI , resulted in a minor injury or in first aid treatment, or been reported by an employee. In most cases, this level of information should be sufficient to proceed to preventive measures.


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  4. However, more complex assessment methods are sometimes required. This is true in cases where it is harder to assess the degree of hazard associated with a particular task or when comparing similar tasks. Example: An employee is assigned to transfer items from one conveyor to another. Email Address. First Name. Last Name. By submitting this form, you are granting: M S International, Inc. Batavia Dr. You may unsubscribe via the link found at the bottom of every email.

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