The Occupational Safety and Health Administration creates regulations to govern the provision of safe work environments in Iowa and other states. Although it prescribes safety regulations that are specific to some industries, it also keeps a lookout for the safety of those in other industries, and expect employers to take the necessary steps and precautions to protect the health and safety of all employees.
Repetitive strain and musculoskeletal injuries are prevalent in many industries, and OSHA recommends ergonomic assessments to identify hazards that might cause these injuries. Modifications to workstations can help to eliminate ergonomic hazards and to avoid lost workdays and high medical costs for employees.
What are ergonomic hazards?
Ergonomics is the study of the conditions in which you work, the jobs or tasks you perform, or the types of equipment you must use throughout a work shift. Repetitions, awkward body postures and more make up ergonomic hazards that might cause long-term health problems brought about by the following:
- Cold environment
- Physical hazards
- Repetitive hazards
- Mental stress
Along with the threat of illness, working in cold surroundings all day comes with many other dangers. Muscles stiffen when they are cold, and that reduces flexibility. Cold hands can affect your ability to feel, exacerbating the risks of working with hazardous materials or dangerous machines and tools. Regardless of whether you work inside or outdoors, wearing warm clothes, gloves and a hat may help.
If you work in manufacturing, construction, warehousing or shipping, risks could include using dangerous equipment and tools, heavy — often repetitive — lifting and lowering of heavy objects, and long hours on your feet. All these actions pose ergonomic hazards. Reducing the size and weight of objects and providing automated or wheeled options for moving them might limit the risk of physical injuries.
While most people associate repetitive stress injuries with meat processing plants and other line work, offices can pose many ergonomic hazards. Typing on a keyboard and using a mouse while seated behind your desk for hours on end can have severe consequences. These could include carpal tunnel syndrome, arthritis, spinal damage and even sciatica, which is tingling, weakness and numbness in the legs — originating from the lower back. Long periods of standing or sitting in awkward positions can be equally as damaging.
You might not realize that mental stress at your workplace can increase your risk of cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure and even high cholesterol rates. This can follow excessive pressure, stressful interactions with other workers and insecurity at your workplace.
Facing the consequences
If your employer disregards ergonomic safety at your workplace, you may end up suffering the consequences. Repetitive stress and other ergonomic injuries can lead to the need for long-term medical care and ongoing therapy, all of which come at a high price. As an employee in Iowa, you might be eligible for workers’ compensation insurance benefits. However, ergonomic injuries are never easy to prove as work-related. Fortunately, resources are available to provide legal support and guidance with the claims process.