Stress and Soft Tissue Injuries

This is the final segment of Les Henley’s research into the links between Stress and MSDS. Today’s section continues to talk of the link between stress and soft tissue injuries, and lists references and resources. 

From the preceding articles we can see that the combination of physiological changes connected with stress and distress may well contribute to damage in muscles and other soft tissues of the musculoskeletal system of the body.

In the past soft tissue injuries have largely been attributed directly to task characteristics. This has led to direct management of risks associated with task by such controls as re-engineering, task rotation and so on. However we have not seen a significant reduction in the numbers or severity of soft tissue injuries from this approach.

Whilst the work at [Organisation] has remained relatively unchanged, except for product types and mix, a range of task related preventative actions to date have included:

  • provision of scissor lift tables in Forge to reduce repetitive bending and reaching;
  • modification of Knock-off conveyor speeds to vary work rates;
  • education of employees in the use of safety devices (E-stops) and conveyor controls to manage critical mass of product flow (tangled castings) and oversize waste pieces (BBQ plates);
  • task rotation to reduce exposure to repetitive tasks;

Certainly at [Organisation’s] plant, despite these preventative actions, we have experienced some severity of soft tissue injuries and the frequency, apart from the odd spike seems to be relatively static at an average of 1.75 per month. (see Table 1).

If we consider the broader implications of Human Stress factors and their potential involvement in the cause of soft tissue injuries, we might recognise the following work related stressors as potential contributors to this level of MSD experience (note the list is indicative but not exhaustive):

Managine Work Related Stress with a View to Reductions of MSDs

If we accept that stress factors may contribute to MSDs then we must take steps to manage the associated risks. Just as we re-engineer and administer actual task activities, we also need to identify and manage work related stress factors.

Given that each individual will perceive the current set of circumstances through their own set of life experiences and coping processes, it becomes a mammoth, if not impossible task to identify which employees may be at risk of stress related MSDs at any point in time.

Hence the best we can do is attempt to recognise and acknowledge the potential stress factors and then attempt to modulate the scope and scale of each one and the combination of them at any given point in time.

Associated with this, an education program in recognising and managing stress and a general health management program may be of some use in combating stress related MSDs.

Work-Related Musculoskeletal Disorders. Stage1. Literature Review. November 2006. Australian Government. ASCC

Selected Nursing Notes and Other Resources Lecture 3: Stress, anxiety and coping mechanisms. 1999 VUT School of Nursing HNB2212: Psychiatric Nursing.

Boletin Del CIS. 012 Stress, Psychosocial Factors. 1999. ILO

STRESS at Work. NIOSH Publication No 99-101

Repetitive Stress Injury: Diagnosis or Self-fulfilling Prophesy. Szabo RM & King KJ. September 2000. Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery

Upper Limb Disorders in the Workplace – Risk Factor Checklist HSE UK

Thank you so much to Les for this research. It has been fascinating and informative. The previous segment can be found at

About the Author

Safety Concepts is an online resource providing up to date insights and covering issues in the field of Workplace Safety.

Comments (1)

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  1. James Thomas says:

    Thanks for spreading the word!

    Stress management is a lifestyle… everyone experiences stress differently, and everyone deals best with it in a different way too.

    I’m glad that someone is doing the research and crunching the numbers… stress IS related to a whole lot more than workplace accidents… it’s a contributing factor to all kinds of diseases and physical ailments as well.

    Great post,

    -James T.

    For more on stress management, see:

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