If you work at a plant nursery in Missouri, your daily tasks likely include pruning plants, moving containers, filling trays, pulling plugs and digging. It might not seem like a hazardous occupation, but you might develop musculoskeletal disorders (MSD) that cause chronic pain for years to come.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration requires employers to provide safe workplace environments, and recommends regular ergonomic assessments to reduce the risk of MSDs. What if you develop an MSD anyway?
Occupational musculoskeletal injuries
Typical work-related musculoskeletal disorders of which you might become a victim include:
- Lower-back muscle strain
- Tendinitis in your shoulders, arms or legs
- Carpal tunnel syndrome
- Trigger finger
- Other sprains, strains and ligament injuries
Repetitive motions can also cause epicondylitis, which affects the elbow, and rotator cuff injuries, which affect the shoulder.
What does implementing ergonomics involve?
Ergonomics protect workers by reassessing the work environment to promote natural body movements or alignment. The following elements are necessary for the successful implementation of ergonomics in a plant nursery or any workplace:
- Management commitment: The overall success of the process will depend on the determination of management, who must define clear objectives and goals. They can designate members of staff to take responsibility for ongoing communication about the principles of ergonomics.
- Training: A formal training ensures all employees understand the benefits of ergonomics and know how to identify ergonomic hazards.
- Employee involvement: Workers should be encouraged to identify and report workplace hazards, voice concerns, and suggest ergonomic changes to reduce risk factors.
- Reporting MSDs: It is crucial to emphasize the importance of the early reporting of MSD symptoms -- not only to prevent progression of the symptoms by prompt treatment but also to identify ergonomic hazards and to find solutions.
- Identification of problems: The primary goal of ergonomics is the identification and assessment of risks and making the necessary changes before they cause MSDs.
- Implementation: Addressing identified ergonomic hazards as soon as they arise is essential to eliminate, reduce and control MSDs.
- Ongoing evaluation: The process of ergonomics is ongoing. Regular assessments are essential to measure whether ergonomic goals are being met. Because it is a process in which workplaces are designed to fit workers, workstations might need modifications to suit new employees.
If your employer has not yet recognized the benefits of ergonomics, you might already be a victim of chronic pain caused by MSDs. The Missouri workers' compensation insurance system will help cover any medical expenses and lost wages you incur due to an MSD caused by your work environment. Experienced legal counsel can help with the complexities of the claims process.