By Joy M. Ebben, Ph.D, CPE
Human Factors and Ergonomic Specialist, IAC Industries, Brea, Calif.
In the April issue of Occupational Health & Safety magazine, an article authored by Dr. Joy Ebben discusses symptoms, causes, and treatment for carpal tunnel injuries suffered in the industrial workplace.
In “It’s Not Just With Keyboards, “ Dr. Ebben relates how long scars on the wrist of a bellhop helping with her luggage led her to surmise correctly that he had undergone carpal tunnel surgery. He had incurred his injuries on an assembly line job, where although the parts he handled were not heavy, he used physical force to snap them into place at a work pace set by a conveyor belt. Thus, the job involved repetitive forces an awkward postures – thought to be among the major contributors to carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS) injuries.
As Dr. Ebben’s article explains, CTS is a nerve entrapment disorder that takes its name from the “carpal” bones of the wrist. The tendons that control finger flexion and the median nerve, one of three nerves that transmit motor and sensory impulses from the hand to the central nervous system, pass through a tunnel formed in each wrist. Compression of this nerve causes the numbness, tingling and discomfort that are the symptoms of CTS.
In the following excerpt from her article, Dr. Ebben offers specific recommendations for eliminating or reducing CTS risks factors in an industrial workplace:
The good news is that workers comp, lost workdays, and other costs related to CTS – one of the more expensive illnesses in the workplace – seem to be declining. The trade magazine CTD News reported a 45% decrease in CTS direct costs from 1996 ($4,764 per case) to 1998 ($2,126 per case) in industry and office environments.
“CTS is often preventable,” Dr. Ebben sums up. “Try to keep your wrists in a neutral posture, use tools and techniques that minimize required force, have a proper working surface height, design and arrange your work space to minimize the CTS risk factors, and make sure to have enough breaks to have sufficient recovery time.”
The article addresses CTS causes and prevention in detail. If you have a customer with an interest in this particular workplace injury, look for the complete article in the April issue of Occupational Health & Safety.
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