Ergonomic-related injuries, or musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs), make up approximately 30 percent of all recordable industrial accidents reported by Postal Service™ employees. MSDs are illnesses or injuries that affect one or more parts of the musculoskeletal system, which is the soft tissue and bone structure of the body. These injuries primarily involve the muscles, tendons, and ligaments that allow us to move and use our joints.
For Fiscal Year (FY) 2021, Ergonomics Awareness Month was a successful campaign that highlighted our ongoing efforts to reduce ergonomic hazards and MSDs. The Postal Service experienced an overall 7 percent reduction in MSDs over this time last year, which equates to 908 fewer employees reporting MSD injuries.
The Ergonomics Awareness Month Campaign for FY 2022 kicks off this February and will emphasize the need for actions on everyone’s part to help reduce MSDs. Successful ergonomics is a multi-team effort involving Management, Labor, Safety, Human Resources, and Operational Excellence.
Ergonomics is simply “fitting the task to the person or making things user-friendly.” Ergonomics looks at a task, sees how it is done, and evaluates how to provide a method that is a better fit to the worker and their capabilities. For example, a task requiring you to extend and reach could be modified by moving the object closer to you or by using a reach pole. Sometimes equipment or workstation changes can be used to make a task easier and reduce risk of injury. Other solutions may include change of methods, techniques, or job rotation to reduce the risk.
MSDs are “wear-and-tear” injuries that occur over time; they develop differently than sudden, traumatic injuries, such as cuts, bruises, or broken bones. MSDs can take weeks, months, or even years to develop. Risk factors include:
- Awkward posture. Any significantly bent or twisted body position that places additional stress on any part of the body or slows the flow of blood to that body part.
- Force. When excessive force is applied to perform a task, such as heavy lifting or pushing rolling stock full of mail. Even something as small as holding an object between the thumb and fingers in a pinch grip can add up to big force over time.
- Repetitive motion. When a joint or body part repeats the same motion several times. An example could be the number of lifts or the number of pinch grips performed per minute or simple actions, such as texting on a cell phone, keying on a laptop, or jogging.
For FY 2021, USPS® reported the following MSD injuries:
Percentage of MSD Injuries
By following the safety policies and procedures established in your facility and using good ergonomic methods for every activity, you will help prevent wear-and-tear injuries,
For more information about ergonomics, check out the following resources:
- Ergonomic Safety talks module in the HERO system under “My Learning.”
- For a printable version of the Ergonomics poster below, look under “Resources” at https://blue.usps.gov/hr/safety/ergonomics.htm.
- Safety Depends on Me videos: blue.usps.gov/corpcomm/uspstv/safety-and-health.
- A–Z Safety Topics on Blue: blue.usps.gov/hr/safety/a-z-safety-toolkit.htm.
- Wellness videos: liteblue.usps.gov/humanresources/benefits/health-wellness/wellness-videos.shtml.
- Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA): osha.gov/ergonomics.
- Centers for Disease Control (CDC): cdc.gov/niosh/topics/ergonomics.
- National Safety Council: nsc.org/hidden-pages/member-newsletters/usps-safety-spotlight.
— Occupational Safety and Health,
Human Resources, 1-27-2022
USPS Ergonomics Poster