There are two sides to MSD development: the work and the worker. While there are many occupational health and safety requirements, policies, guidelines and regulations governing work design and ensuring a workplace free of hazards, there is less attention focused on wellness and helping workers help themselves. Too often, unfortunately, safety and wellness work silos. But until workers’ individual health and fitness are addressed, MSDs will develop – and they will continue to take a serious toll on individuals and organizations.
It is not difficult to understand why MSDs occur so frequently when we consider the prevalence of overweight, unfit and generally unhealthy workers. Research indicates that 6 out of 10 workers carry excess weight, and 3 out of 10 are obese.
The current workplace demographics paint a picture of a baby-boomer generation that is increasingly physically de-conditioned with increasing age and a younger generation of employees who show significant signs of poor health at an earlier age due to sedentary lifestyles, poor nutrition, and obesity. The incidence of MSDs is forecast to rise exponentially with time unless effective intervention strategies are incorporated among the workforce.
Aging is also an issue. As individuals grow older, muscle mass and muscle strength decrease and body fat increase. In other words, body composition changes. Even if we weigh the same as we grow older, we have less muscle mass and more fat making up our weight, resulting in loss of strength, a major risk factor in MSDs.