Strategies for Tackling the "Biggest Workplace Health Problem Today"
you're involved in data entry, assembly line work, scooping ice cream,
or simply knitting or playing racquetball in their spare time, you are
at risk for what the Occupational Safety and Health Administration has
called "the biggest workplace health problem today."
more than 100 injuries ranging from carpal tunnel syndrome and
tendinitis to lower back strain, cumulative trauma disorders (CTDs)
have increased more than 1,000 percent in a decade — from 26,000
in 1983 to 302,000 in 1993, according to U.S. Bureau of Labor
Statistics (BLS) data. CTDs currently comprise 62 percent of all
workplace illnesses, despite a 7 percent decline in recent 1995 BLS
business needs to examine the overall health of the work force and risk
factors in and outside the workplace," cautioned Dr. Alain Couturier, a
member of the American College of Occupational and Environmental
Medicine (ACOEM) who developed a Labor Day CheckList of tips employers
and employees can implement to prevent CTDs.
individuals are at greater risk for CTDs because their tissues have
lower thresholds for damage from exposures to cumulative stressors,"
anyone can acquire a CTD, he warned, including employees who slouch,
use foot pedals repetitiously, lift objects unassisted or in awkward
postures, or carry light weights away from the body. Computer users
also are at risk, whether they use the computer for work or
recreationally. And, many employees may be prone to CTDs while enjoying
recreational activities at home, such as playing the violin or piano,
and driving or riding motorcycles long distances.
deck over the weekend may be dangerous for an out-of-shape executive,"
Couturier said. "Driving hundreds of nails into boards and beams
without breaks or stretching can put strain on muscles."
checklist addresses 17 CTD risk factors, including such lifestyle
issues as inactivity, sleep, "vices," diet, illicit drugs and
recreation. Suggestions employers can follow in this area include:
Encourage physical fitness; consider health club discounts.
Limit shift changes.
Ban alcohol, cigarettes and illegal drug use in the workplace.
Promote wellness and prevention programs.
And, provide employee assistance programs (EAPs) for people in need
meanwhile, can: get regular, restful sleep and 30 minutes of aerobic
exercise (with pulse at 75 percent of maximum heart rate) three to four
times weekly; avoid alcohol, tobacco, caffeine and illicit drugs; eat a
well-balanced diet; maintain desirable weight; and limit knitting,
keyboarding and distance driving.
CTDs may simply involve making workstations more flexible, taking
appropriately timed rest breaks and task rotations, eating a healthy
diet and getting the proper aerobic exercise and sleep," Couturier said.
Address: ACOEM, 55 West Seegers Road, Arlington Heights, IL 60005-3919.
Top 15 Most Dangerous Jobs
(Non-Fatal Occupational Injuries & Illnesses)
||Number of Injuries/Illnesses
||Nursing aides, orderlies
||Stock handlers, baggers
||Food Preparers, misc.
||Sales workers, misc.
Compiled by the American College of Occupational and Environmental
Medicine from 1995 data, Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of
Copyright 1998 Health Resources Publishing