Oct 23, 2019
Here's a shocking statistic: over 45,000 people are killed from opioid overdoses each year in the United States. That's over 100 deaths per day.What's worse, the trend is increasing by almost 500% over the last twenty years. Where is the failure of safety leadership occurring and why is this crisis happening so frequently? Some signs point to the increasing number of workplace injuries from MSDs (musculoskeletal disorders).
These MSDs are a vital component in understanding the rise of opioid-related illnesses and fatalities. Out of those that died from opioid overdoses, over half of them had prior MSDs at the workplace. This is alarming and should raise red flags moving forward. Not surprisingly, the highest rate of musculoskeletal disorders is coming from industries where the highest rate of injuries are recorded. This includes the construction, oil and gas industries and on major capital projects and megaprojects, agriculture, transportation, waste management, and many healthcare professions. These particular working conditions are demanding and involve forceful exertions of strength which push the human body to the limit. This data points to a clear connection between these types of professions and opiod-related deaths. Can proper safety training alleviate this epidemic? The majority of these injuries occur where there is a lapse in proper ergonomics training in the workplace. What is ergonomics? It's where the human physical capabilities of each worker are matched with proper workplace design. Ideally, the outcome of ergonomics is to optimize the performance of each employee. Although, ergonomics affects the employee's well being as much as the performance output. What happens when a lapse in safety leadership means a workplace does not practice proper ergonomics? The result is a catastrophe but physical and economic. MSDs are not only physically problematic but also economically unsustainable for any company. These types of physical ailments are the 2nd leading cause of disability across the globe increasing nearly 50% since 2000, according to the Global Burden of Disease Study. What types of injuries are causing these MSDs and the subsequent opioid abuse? Industry evidence is pointing to the extreme use of heavy-lifting and forceful exertions that over-extend the human body beyond what it is capable of. These over-exertions include pushing, throwing, pulling, lifting, and carrying excess weight. The annual price tag of these types of injuries can total almost $14 billion. This is a growing problem across the globe and is not tied to any particular region. So what are the options for treating this epidemic? MSDs can be treaded with transformative practices such as physical rehabilitation, over the counter medication, and invasive surgery, and the use of strong prescription medications such as opioids. At the turn of the 21st Century, the Veterans Health Administration began to realize that "pain is the fifth vital sign" as opioid prescriptions to treat pain jumped significantly as 45 % of workers injured on the job were prescribed opioids as the preferred method to treat pain. Ergonomics, when designed and implemented properly, could alleviate this problem before it has a chance to take root. This could save pain, money, and lives.
Blake McGowan | Oct 23, 2019 - More than 47,000 people die annually from opioid overdoses in the U.S. This is equivalent to roughly 130 deaths per day, close to five per hour, or one every 12 minutes. In just under 20 years, opioid overdose death rates have increased almost 500%. Why?
One reason is workplace musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs); they’ve recently been identified as a key factor in opioid-related overdose deaths. Data from the Utah Department of Health, the Office of Medical Examiners, and the Labor Commission on all Utah residents showed that 57% of those who died from opioid-related deaths had at least one prior workplace MSD. The highest rates of opioid-related overdose deaths occur in industries with higher injury rates and physically demanding working conditions, including regular forceful exertions.
Occupational categories with the highest rates of opioid-related overdose deaths include construction, agriculture, material moving occupations, maintenance/repair, transportation, production, food preparation, waste management, and healthcare. In all of these categories, work requires forceful exertions. There is a clear correlation between jobs with the highest injury and illness rates and opioid-related overdose death rates.
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