ISSN 2630-0583 (Print)

ISSN 2630-0656 (Online)


Journal of Current Science and Technology

Rangsit Journal of Arts and Sciences. Vol.1 No.2 , July - December 2011.

Improving the quality of life through a new approach aimed at controlling musculoskeletal disorders at work

Kamiel Vanwonterghem, Pongjan Yoopat, Christophe Maes, and Stefaan Poriau


           In the past few decades, working systems have continually contributed to increased productivity; many innovations have drastically affected citizens’ quality of life. Science has played a dominant role in at least two ways: a) the appearance of new technologies increasing the possibilities for the end-users, and b) changing peoples’ working conditions. Changes in working conditions bring new risks. Whereas with wide-spread mechanization and manual work many accidents occur because of techno-mechanical and environmental factors, the more recently introduced work systems have given rise to psycho-somatic problems via sensory-mental load, risk perception, physical fatigue and muscle load. To reduce the undesirable human effects, more functions were allocated to the technical systems (automation/robotics) which resolved a series of evident problems, but that policy also created new risks for operators: alienation in the production process, cognitive load (vigilance, psycho-mental stress), machine paced work, repetitive work for smaller muscle groups and postural load. As long as there was a direct cause-effect relationship, protection strategies (individual as  well as collective) were successful in reducing occupational injuries and diseases. But when the causal factors became unreliable and less predictable - as in the case of musculoskeletal disorders (MSD) - the classic preventive measures failed completely. The main reasons for this failure lay in the fact that injuries due to labor accidents are immediate and obvious, whereas for MSD the effects on humans have a cumulate causal impact over longer periods. This fact necessitates a participative and risk-anticipating approach in which subjectively experienced pre-symptoms are corroborated by an objective quantification of the complaints.

Keywords: quality of life, accident analysis, musculoskeletal disorder (MSD), cumulative trauma disorder (CTD), system analysis

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