According to a survey of nearly 500 attendees of an occupational safety professionals virtual conference, workplace injuries are rising across the nation because employees are returning to their jobs less physically fit than they were when the pandemic hit.
Injuries now and in the future
A whopping 89 percent reported that workers are experiencing “the same to significantly more stress and muscular discomfort.” When the safety pros were asked if they expect workplace musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) to increase or decrease when all employees have returned to their jobs, the response was overwhelming: 95 percent expect MSDs to stay the same or increase.
A recent article in EHS Today, an occupational health and safety magazine, states that to understand the increased risks of MSDs to physically active industrial workers, it helps to think of an athlete who takes a hiatus at the end of a season or due to injury. They begin to decondition, meaning their endurance levels and strength diminish.
Deconditioning affects everyone
“No one is immune to deconditioning,” says EHS Today. “Not the marathon runner, and not the industrial worker.”
For the industrial worker, deconditioning can mean that they aren’t moving, lifting and carrying on a shop floor. Those activities make your heart work, which translates into cardiovascular health, increased muscle mass and flexibility. Lack of activity – physical deconditioning – means an erosion of those important elements of overall health.
The effects of physical inactivity
Lack of physical activity can have profound effects, including:
- The heart atrophies, making it harder to pump blood to muscles
- Physical endurance erodes, resulting in lactic acid build-up and body fatigue
- Strength diminishes: the average person can lose 1 percent to 3 percent of muscle strength each day
- Reduced range of motion
- Weight gain
Add it all up and you’ve got a potent recipe for MSDs, including lower back injuries, muscle strains, ligament sprains and a wide range of other work-related injuries.