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Ergonomic processes can protect NC workers from MSDs

North Carolina workers in certain industries may be alarmed to learn that they may have a high risk of developing musculoskeletal disorders, which accounted for a solid third of all work-related injuries in 2011, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Because the known risk factors for these types of injuries are common workplace duties in many occupations, employees who work in a variety of occupations and industries are at risk. Heavy lifting, awkward work positions and repetitive tasks, among other activities, increase workers' risk for musculoskeletal injuries. According to data from the BLS, the industries in which MSDs are most prevalent include retail, health care, transportation and warehousing, and construction.

Employers have a duty to ensure that workers have a safe and healthy work environment. The introduction of ergonomic principals in the workplace is known to reduce these risks and their associated expenses. Ergonomic processes may be implemented in several ways, and management must make a commitment to the process and set forth clear goals and objectives for implementation. Employees should also be included in the decision-making and implementation process for an effective ergonomic system to be put in place. Proper training, problem-solving, prompt reporting of symptoms and system evaluation are necessary for a successful system.

Contacting OSHA is one of the first steps for an employee who believes his or her right to a danger-free work environment has been violated. Federal OSHA laws require that employers provide a safe, healthy workplace. These laws further address the concerns of employees who may be worried about retaliation for exercising their legal rights. Such retaliation is strictly prohibited by the law.

An attorney knowledgeable in workers' compensation and employment law could provide needed support and information for workers. Such attorneys are familiar with employee rights and laws designed to protect employees. They and their legal staff may be able to provide employees with information about their legal rights, appropriate contact information and information about the scope of available legal remedies.

Source: U.S. Department of Labor , "Prevention of Musculoskeletal Disorders in the Workplace", October 21, 2014

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