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The U.S. Department of Labor’s new report that 582,000 injuries — one-third of all work injuries — are due to repetitive motions, sprains, and strains shows the importance of instituting injury prevention programs in the workplace, according to the American Academy of Ortho-paedic Surgeons (AAOS). AAOS stresses that many injuries can be prevented.
Richard Gelberman, MD, president of the AAOS and an orthopaedic surgeon in St. Louis, says the report should be an eye-opener for anyone who doubts the impact of work-related injuries. Musculoskeletal conditions have reached epidemic proportions, costing the U.S. government $254 billion annually, he says. "They affect one out of every seven people. The Labor Department’s new report cites musculoskeletal conditions as responsible for more than a half million workplace injuries that are serious enough to require time off from work. The academy is calling attention to this problem with its national public education campaign, Prevent Injuries America!, a comprehensive guide to help people reduce injury risk.
Musculoskeletal disorders are taking an increasingly higher toll on people’s lives: at home, at work, and at play, Gelberman says. To help reduce injuries that kept employees away from their jobs, the AAOS is encouraging employers, unions, and government agencies to proactively begin injury prevention programs at work. "Prevention is the key to reducing worker illness and injury," Gelberman says. "We must proactively initiate and maintain prevention programs to get America back to work."
Carpal tunnel syndrome and fractures are the diagnoses currently associated with the most work-loss days among occupational injuries/illnesses. Wrist injuries kept employees absent from work a median of 12 days; knee and shoulder injuries kept workers absent a median of 10 days each. Approximately 3.6 million back sprains kept employees absent from work an average of nine days. Gelberman cites these other statistics:
— Caucasians have more back pain than African-Americans.
— Most frequently injured anatomic site on the job: the back.
— Each year, 28.6 million people have a musculoskeletal injury.
— Musculoskeletal impairment impacts both genders, as well as all ages and races, and keeps individuals bedridden a total of 153 million days a year.
As part of its educational campaign, Prevent Injuries America! offers these safety tips for the workplace:
— Learn how to lift properly, with your legs, not your back or arms.
— When sitting at your desk, keep your back in a normal, slightly arched position. Make sure your chair supports your lower back. Keep your head and shoulders erect. Make sure your working surface is at the proper height so you do not have to lean forward.
— Practice ladder safety. When using a ladder, avoid over reaching or leaning far to one side. That could throw you off balance. Ladder falls can produce serious injuries.
— Wear shoes that conform to the natural shape of your feet. More than 43.1 million Americans — one in every six persons — have trouble with their feet, mostly from improperly fitting shoes. A huge public health risk, foot problems cost the the United States $3.5 billion a year.
— Eliminate tripping hazards at work and install handrails, grab bars, and other safety devices where necessary.