Risk Factors that Cause MSDs | Ergonomics

The physical stresses that can contribute to or cause MSDs are called "risk factors." The initial symptoms of MSDs may include fatigue, discomfort, and pain; as tissue damage worsens, other symptoms, such as weakness, numbness, or restricted movement, may also appear. Work-related MSDs occur when the risk factors that cause or contribute to musculoskeletal system pathology are associated with a person's job duties. Workplace musculoskeletal disorders are caused by exposure to the following risk factors:


Doing the same motions over and over again places stress on the muscles and tendons. The severity of risk depends on how often the action is repeated, the speed of movement, the number of muscles involved, and the required force.

Forceful Exertions

Force is the amount of physical effort required to perform a task, such as heavy lifting or pushing/pulling, or to maintain control of equipment or tools. The amount of force depends on the type of grip, the weight of an object, body posture, the type of activity, and the duration of the task.

Awkward Postures

Posture is the position your body is in and affects muscle groups that are involved in physical activity. Awkward postures include repeated or prolonged reaching, twisting, bending, kneeling, squatting, working overhead with your hands or arms, or holding fixed positions.

Contact Stress

Pressing the body against a hard or sharp edge can result in placing too much pressure on nerves, tendons, and blood vessels. For example, using the palm of your hand as a hammer can increase your risk of suffering an MSD.


Operating vibrating tools or equipment that typically have high or moderate vibration levels such as sanders, grinders, chippers, routers, drills, and other saws can lead to nerve damage.

Don't Wait to Start an Ergonomics Program

Data shows that employers with effective, well-managed ergonomics programs see significant reductions in the severity and number of work-related MSDs. These programs also generally improve productivity and employee morale and reduce turnover and absenteeism.

Even though OSHA's ergonomics standard has been rescinded, your workers' safety and health and rising workers' compensation claims are reason enough for you to carefully analyze your company's work environment, the equipment used, and the tasks performed from an ergonomics perspective. If you do not feel competent to make the evaluation, bring in outside assistance. There are various government and private agencies that are capable of doing a workplace analysis.

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