Risk Factors -Environmental Health & Safety - Carnegie Mellon University

Risk Factors

While anyone can incur an ergonomic injury, there are a number of known risk factors which increase the potential. If your job exposes you to any of the following, contact EH&S to learn how you can reduce your potential for injury:

  • A high number of repetitions – This is the most common risk factor encountered at Carnegie Mellon and is usually associated with concentrated computer use. If you repeat the same motions every few seconds, or if you use a keyboard and mouse for several hours each day, you increase your susceptibility to an MSD. The faster you perform these repetitions (e.g., typing fast) and the more force you use (e.g., hitting the keyboard with a heavy touch), the greater your chance of incurring an ergonomic injury.
  • Force – Increased typing speed is usually accompanied by an increased stroking pressure. This can lead to finger, hand and wrist injuries. Lifting heavy weights is another form of force which leads to MSD’s, usually in the lower back area. Lifting is affected not only by the weight of the object being lifted but also by such factors as body position, type of grip, irregular weight distribution of the object, and the duration of the task. Lifting heavy objects several times (i.e., force combined with a high number of repetitions) is a recipe for incurring an MSD. Contact EH&S for advice on lifting, or plan to attend one of our classes on Lifting/Back Safety.
  • Awkward postures – This can occur in any of several jobs on campus: Researchers leaning over a microscope, FMS relampers or painters working with their arms over their heads for extended periods of time, secretaries leaning over a file drawer without adequate breaks, or anyone bending or kneeling are examples of jobs which are susceptible to this type of injury.
  • Contact Stress – This refers to any activity that requires you to make physical contact with an object which may place excess pressure on nerves or blood vessels. Resting your elbows on a lab bench all day or using your hand as a hammer are examples of contact stress. This type of injury can occur over an extended period of time or it may happen immediately.
  • Vibration – Any job which requires you to use vibrating tools can lead to nerve damage. FMS employees are the people most susceptible to this type of injury, which can occur due to extended use of chain saws, power tools, lawn mowers, leaf blowers, or other similar devices.

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