Regardless of your occupation, you could be at risk of suffering ergonomic injuries that are preventable if you know the danger signs. The hazards of different types of jobs can vary. Physical demands of your job may pose ergonomic risks, which could cause injuries and time off work. The origin of the danger could be the equipment or tools you use or the awkward body position you must maintain for extended periods.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration requires Pennsylvania employers to provide safe work environments that will not threaten the health and safety of employees. However, many business owners do not prioritize employee safety, and if you know the danger signs, you may avoid the pain that typically accompanies injuries caused by ergonomic hazards.
- Administrative or office environments: If you are an office worker, you may not be aware of the potential risks. Any repetitive motions without sufficient breaks, such as typing on a keyboard, manipulating a mouse and other administrative tasks, can cause wrist injuries like carpal tunnel syndrome. It is a condition that can cause chronic pain and might even be debilitating. Furthermore, long periods of standing or sitting without appropriate support for your legs and back can lead to skeletal issues such as sciatica of the spine.
- Physically demanding jobs: Typical injuries in manufacturing, construction, shipping and other physically demanding occupations include falls, struck-by and other hazards, but you may not take enough precautions to avoid musculoskeletal injuries. These injuries follow heavy lifting of objects or handling of equipment that requires the operator to hold it for extended periods. Reducing the size of objects can limit the risks along with providing mechanical lifting devices and wheeled equipment for the easy transport of heavy tools.
- Working in cold environments: Exposure to cold temperatures is an ergonomic hazard on its own, and it can also exacerbate other ergonomic threats. Cold workplace surroundings tend to cause stiffened muscles and reduced flexibility while it can also impair your ability to feel objects that you touch. When you work with hazardous tools or other dangerous materials, the lack of these senses could lead to catastrophic physical injuries. Extended exposure to low temperatures can also cause illness.
- Mental stress: You may not realize that a changed work environment can eliminate mental stress, which is a life-threatening ergonomic hazard. Strained interactions with other workers or superiors can create emotional pressure that might lead to cardiovascular disease, which could be deadly. If your stress results from a lack of job security, the fear of losing your employment can result in elevated blood pressure and raised cholesterol levels.
While the Pennsylvania workers’ compensation insurance system will likely cover any of the above consequences of neglected workplace ergonomics, proving such a condition to be work-related could be challenging. Fortunately, resources are available to provide the necessary support and guidance throughout the claims process and the appeals process in the event of a rejected claim.