Numerous industries in Massachusetts put workers at risk of muscle and soft tissue injuries. These injuries do not result from a single accidental event but rather from prolonged repetition of the same bodily movements and overwork. These types of injuries affect muscles, tendons and nerves. The medical community refers to them as work-related musculoskeletal injuries (WRMI), repetitive stress injuries or cumulative trauma disorders.
Where workers have the greatest risk
The nature of the work duties in many types of employment call for workers to do the same tasks over and over, and their bodies eventually experience wear and tear. The risk of WRMI for workers is not restricted to jobs focused on low-skill, manual labor. Skilled workers whose duties impose repetitive physical demands also suffer these types of workplace injuries.
Industries known for WRMI among workers:
- Meat processing
- Data entry
- Postal and package processing
- Nursing and nursing assistance
- Clothing manufacturing
- Vehicle manufacturing
Personal and financial costs of WRMI
Workers rely on their physical capabilities to earn a living. When the pain and loss of function caused by WRMIs becomes too much to perform at work, they must seek medical care and take time off. Anger and depression frequently trouble people facing this problem. They must pay for medical care while wondering if they will ever be able to resume earning a living.
Employers also experience economic losses due to lost productivity, insurance administration and time spent replacing workers. Tools and strategies exist for employers to reduce WRMI risks. They must assess their workplaces for hazards and create a plan to teach workers proper ergonomics. Some industries benefit from giving workers assistive devices like back braces or lifts that help move medical patients or other heavy objects.