MSD Risk Factor Recognition 

An MSD risk factor is any negative effect which may increase the risk of musculoskeletal disorder or injury. Risk factors may be identified via interviews, surveys, checklists, review of accidents or incidents and safety tours. The presence of multiple risk factors produces higher level of risk. 

Once identified risk factors have been evaluated, the level of risk will be reduced by successful control of one of more of the risk factors.

Biomechanical Risk Factors

Biomechanics describes the mechanical behaviour of the musculoskeletal system when activity is being performed. Risk factors associated with biomechanics include, but are not limited to:

  • Awkward or static postures
  • Excessive or sustained forces
  • Contact stress
  • Vibration

The degree or amount of risk associated is determined by the magnitude, frequency and duration of exposure. Muscles, ligaments and tendons require an appropriate amount of rest to recover sufficiently from exertions. 

If sufficient rest is not provided, fatigue will develop, and the probability of a musculoskeletal disorder developing will increase. The longer, harder and more frequent the muscles are worked, the longer the recovery time required.

Environmental Factors

In addition to biomedical risk factors, there are a number of ways the physical characteristics of a working environment can negatively or positively affect the ability to perform work safely.

  • Noise

Noise can lead to increased stress, distractions and hearing loss. Insufficient noise may lead to decreased attention and also may not provide enough feedback to the user, which can increase the number of errors and compromise productivity and safety.  

  • Temperature

Summer temperatures in certain working areas of a mine cause increased physical stress and fatigue.

  • Lighting 

Excessive or poor lighting can affect both productivity and comfort levels. Excessive lighting leads to glare and subsequently to fatigue, and poor lighting also leads to increased errors and compromised safety.  

Organizational Risk Factors 

These risk factors can play a major role in the development of work-related musculoskeletal disorders. Organizational risk factors can affect stress levels, work technique, muscle tension and physical recovery time. Examples include work pacing, time pressures, shift work, work load and forced overtime. 

Personal Risk Factors 

The risk for MSD increases with age, smoking and personal life stressors such as finances or family issues. The presence of other health concerns, such as obesity or diabetes, may also increase risk for injury.

Psychosocial Factors 

Fear of job loss, low support from coworkers or supervisors, peer pressure to underreport and incentive schemes that may contribute to workplace stress, and work performance behaviours could have an unexpected negative impact on health and safety.