NSC Labor Division news Ergonomics Injury prevention Musculoskeletal disorders

Solutions to tackle work-related MSDs: New white paper from NSC


Photo: Hispanolistic/iStockphoto

Itasca, IL — A new white paper from the National Safety Council details effective interventions to help prevent or reduce work-related musculoskeletal disorders.

The most common workplace injury, MSDs – such as tendinitis, back strains and sprains, and carpal tunnel syndrome – affect nearly a quarter of the world’s population and are the leading cause of worker disability, early retirement and limitations to gainful employment, according to NSC. In addition, they account for nearly a third of unwanted days away from work, totaling around $20 billion in annual costs to U.S. employers.

“MSDs significantly undermine business efficiencies and workers’ abilities to live their fullest lives – and more must be done to reduce these chronic, debilitating injuries,” said Paul Vincent, executive vice president of workplace practice at NSC. “This white paper seeks to offer solutions to this pervasive issue based on the latest research by providing organizations of all sizes with promising intervention strategies to help prevent these injuries.”

Published via the council’s MSD Solutions Lab initiative, the paper references nearly 60 scientific studies and academic publications, and examines interventions across the top 10 afflicted industries, to determine safety initiatives that are most effective at reducing MSDs.

Interventions such as the use of assistive devices, exoskeletons or employer-backed physical activity programs have the potential to be effective at reducing MSD discomfort, pain and injury. Programs that pair physical modifications with cognitive processes and organizational change management forms of prevention exhibit higher levels of effectiveness than those that focus solely on physical modifications.

“MSD prevention is not a one-size-fits-all approach, which is why it’s critical for employers to continually examine their ergonomics program initiatives and involve and listen to their workers when doing so,” Julia Abate, executive director of the Ergonomics Center at North Carolina State University, said in a press release. “This white paper reinforces the fact that physical modification interventions are better when implemented in conjunction with appropriate change management, coaching and training strategies.”

The council and its MSD Solutions Lab will host a panel on addressing MSDs in the workplace during the 2022 NSC Safety Congress & Expo, which kicks off Sept. 16 in San Diego.