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10 ways to keep MSDs at bay

Take the stairs

Varying movement is an essential strategy for preventing musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) on the job.

"It gets the blood flowing and the muscles working and boosts physical, cognitive, and emotional well-being," says WSPS Ergonomics Specialist Don Patten.

MSDs continue to be the number one work-related lost-time injury in Ontario. The best way to get on top of these injuries and related costs is to incorporate MSD prevention activities into your health and safety program and encourage sedentary workers to move throughout the day. WSPS' video 20-8-2: Work Smarter, Not Harder outlines a simple rule employees can use to move more and move often.

About MSDs

MSDs, such as low back pain, tendonitis and carpal tunnel syndrome, result from a mismatch between the capabilities of a worker and the design of the tools or equipment they're using. Being in a fixed posture all day can also cause MSDs and other health ailments, like cardiovascular disease and obesity.

Workers who experience MSDs may be tempted to avoid doing tasks that hurt, or worse, bring in their own solutions to modify workstations. This can reduce productivity and introduce other hazards.

To prevent injuries and the high costs associated with MSDs, recognize, assess and control MSD hazards the same way you do any other hazards. It's also important to look for MSD hazards when introducing new equipment, processes, and procedures into the organization.

"WSPS Consultants who visit employer workplaces make sure they determine the impact on humans for the solutions they recommend," says Don. "We can teach employers how to do the same thing."

10 ways to get moving

Eliminate or control risk factors for MSDs and encourage sedentary workers to get moving using the 20-8-2 rule: sit for 20 minutes, stand for 8, and gently stretch for two. The rule replaces static posture, which is unhealthy for the body, with a mix of standing, sitting, walking and gentle exercise. Here are 10 suggestions on how to put that rule into action:

Standing and walking

  • Walk while talking on the phone. Sit down to take notes. Complete the call standing up.
  • Choose the kitchen, meeting room, bathroom and stairway that's furthest away.
  • Stand up and sit down without using your hands five times.
  • Don't eat at your desk. Go for a walk to a nearby park.
  • Invest in a pedometer and see how far you can walk in a day.

Gently stretch

  • Stretch your torso. Take a deep breath and exhale, grabbing the back of your chair with one hand, then the other.
  • Relieve pressure in your neck and shoulders by shrugging up your ears and then releasing several times.
  • Loosen hands by making air circles with hands held straight in front of you.
  • Stretch your legs by extending them in front of you, flexing your toes and point. Do this several times.
  • Stretch shoulders and upper back by grabbing your elbow on one side and stretching your arm across your chest. Do the same with the other side.

How we can help 

Ask our expert ergonomists how you can integrate MSD prevention into your health and safety program.

View the WSPS video, 20-8-2: Work Smarter, Not Harder and share with supervisors, workers and managers.

Check out Ergonomics topic page for other helpful ergonomics resources, including:

  • complimentary downloads,
  • e-courses,
  • training solutions.