Musculoskeletal injuries in the workplace account for a full third of all cases of injury and illness that require days off from work in order to recuperate. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) says that musculoskeletal disorders (MSD) “are injuries or illnesses affecting the connective tissues of the body such as muscles, nerves, tendons, joints, cartilage, or spinal disks.” Following are some interesting 2011 BLS statistics regarding musculoskeletal injuries in the workplace in America:
- The total number of injury and illness cases that required days away from work to recuperate: 1,181,290.
- Of all the cases of injury and illness, 387,820 cases related to musculoskeletal disorders.
- Six occupations account for 26% of all MSD cases: nursing assistants, laborers, janitors and cleaners, heavy and tractor-trailer truck drivers, registered nurses and stock clerks.
- Injuries and illnesses due to repetitive motion involving microtasks (such as typing) accounted for only 3 percent of all occupational injury and illness cases. However, those with this kind of injury required nearly 3 times as many days away from work as for all other types of injuries and illness – a median of 23 days.
- Sprains, strains, and tears accounted for 38 percent of the total injury and illness cases that required days off from work.
- Of the 447,200 sprains, strains, and tears, 22% were due to overexertion when lifting or lowering, 12% were due to falls on the same level, the back was injured in 36% of cases, and injuries to the shoulders and knees accounted for 12% each.
- MSDs accounted for 39 cases out of every 10,000 full-time workers.
- Workers with musculoskeletal disorders required a median of 11 days of recuperation before being able to return to work, compared with 8 days for other types of illness and injury cases.
- The greatest number of MSD cases were nursing assistants (25,010).
- Those with the greatest number of median days spent off from work in order to recuperate from an MSD were heavy and tractor-trailer truck drivers (21 days).
- The back was the primary site of MSD injuries in 42 percent of all cases across all occupations, requiring a median time off to recuperate of 7 days.
- Although it accounts for only 13% of all MSDs, the shoulder was the area with the most severe injuries, requiring a median of 21 days off of work to recuperate.
The BLS estimates that nearly all MSDs are caused by overexertion. It is no wonder that the nursing professions have among the highest number of injuries, given the long hours worked and the necessity of having to frequently lift patients while in awkward positions. And considering all the heavy loads that truck drivers must pick up and deliver, their high rate of MSD is no surprise.
Experts advise that to help prevent MSD injuries, you take frequent breaks during your work day to stretch your muscles and get your blood circulating. A program of regular stretching and strengthening exercises may be important for those who have professions that are physically taxing.
If you’re interested in even more detail, this November 8, 2012 BLS news release is for you!