Site Alert

The Quarterly Reporting system will be unavailable through My L&I Sunday, July 21, from 9 a.m. to noon due to maintenance. You can file your report through QuickFile in the meantime. We apologize for the inconvenience.

Identifying High Risk Industries for WMSDs

Safety & Health Assessment & Research for Prevention (SHARP) — Research for Safe Work

Work-Related Musculoskeletal Disorders (WMSDs)

Work-Related Musculoskeletal Disorders in Washington State

Work-Related Musculoskeletal Disorders (WMSDs) are costly for Washington businesses and workers. Between 1997 and 2005 the Washington State Workers' Compensation Fund accepted 335,000 WMSD claims, costing over $4 billion in benefits and resulting in more than 23.7 million lost work days. WMSDs are injuries to the muscles, tendons, nerves, and joints. They are caused or made worse by hazards in work activities and develop over time.

By eliminating certain hazards in the workplace, the number and costs of WMSDs can be reduced. Tracking the impact of these types of injuries can help businesses, labor, and government focus their prevention efforts.

SHARP identifies high risk industries for work-related musculoskeletal disorders (WMSDs)

The Safety and Health Assessment and Research for Prevention (SHARP) Program published a report that described an analysis of Washington State Workers' Compensation (WC) claims from 1997 to 2005. The number of claims accepted for hand/wrist, elbow, shoulder, neck, and back WMSDs were identified and divided by the number of full time employees to determine a WMSD claims rate. The calculation of the Rate Ratio identified high risk industries. A Rate Ratio compares the risk in one industry to the risk in all industries combined. The higher the Rate Ratio is above 1.0 the higher the risk of WMSDs.

The Rate Ratio in Construction was 1.8, which means a worker in construction is 1.8 times more likely to have an accepted WMSD claim than all the industries combined. Also, the cost of these claims was over $1 billion and resulted in almost 5.5 million lost work days. The Transportation and Warehousing industry also had a Rate Ratio of 1.8. See the table below for a comparison of Washington State industries.

Table 1. The Risk (Rate Ratio) of WMSD Claims in Washington State Industries and the Related Workers' Compensation Claims, Benefits and Lost Work Days, 1997-2005
Rate ratio Accepted WMSD claims Cost of benefits Lost work days
Construction (23) 1.8 51,650 $1,064,513,672 5,499,874
Transportation And Warehousing (Courier, Warehouse) (49) 1.8 2,506 $23,503,500 157,322
Manufacturing (Paper, Printing, Energy, Chemicals) (32) 1.7 14,667 $154,501,401 919,846
Transportation And Warehousing (Air, Rail, Water, Truck, Transit) (31) 1.6 12,458 $165,132,657 935,711
Manufacturing (Food, Beverage, Textile, Apparel) (33) 1.6 8,414 $85,306,470 589,374
Manufacturing (Metals, Machinery, Transport, Furniture) (33) 1.3 20,273 $241,423,321 1,425,320
Mining (21) 1.2 815 $15,021,033 74,157
Health Care And Social Assistance (62) 1.2 36,365 $340,823,514 2,186,698
Utilities (22) 1.2 1,210 $16,733,889 62,489
Administrative And Support And Waste Management And Remediation Services (56) 1.2 20,389 $211,053,397 1,455,230
Wholesale Trade (42) 1.1 24,350 $247,308,636 1,412,906
Retail Trade (Non-Department Store) (44) 1.1 30,861 $315,697,660 1,924,809
Accommodation And Food Services (72) 1 26,084 $204,781,820 1,560,245
Public Administration (92) 1 14,942 $154,762,622 687,747
Retail Trade (General, Miscellaneous Retailers) (45) 0.9 9,672 $86,403,306 602,045
Unclassified Establishments (99) 0.9 218 $2,720,298 23,739
Agriculture, Forestry, Fishing And Hunting (11) 0.9 11,422 $136,296,482 862,692
Other Services (Except Public Administration) 0.9 14,663 $204,351,701 1,276,980
Arts, Entertainment, And Recreation (81) 0.8 3,379 $29,784,897 196,333
Real Estate And Rental And Leasing (71) 0.7 7,501 $83,530,114 525,801
Management Of Companies And Enterprises (53) 0.6 81 $2,216,095 10,981
Educational Services (61) 0.5 8,606 $77,586,565 433,548
Information (51) 0.4 3,439 $32,318,360 179,896
Professional, Scientific, And Technical Services (54) 0.3 7,611 $92,522,804 504,625
Finance And Insurance (52) 0.3 3,785 $39,261,216 219,314
*North American Industry Classification System

High risk jobs can hide in low risk industries.

Sometimes the calculated risk at the industry level differs from the calculated risk at the job level. We looked at assigned risk class (Washington Industrial Classification - WIC) to find jobs that report more WMSDs than others. Nursing home workers in the health care industry had a Rate Ratio of 3.8. This is well above the 1.2 Rate Ratio in health care overall. The examples below help highlight the need to assess risk beyond the industry level.

Table 2. Comparisons between the rate ratios of industries and the types of work in those industries
Industry Type of work (WIC)* Rate ratio
Construction 1.8
  Wallboard Installation (0540) 5.5
  Roofing (0507) 4.7
  Glass Installation (0511) 4.0
  Masonry Construction (0302) 3.5
  Floor Covering Installation (0502) 3.5
  Building Construction, Not Otherwise Classified (0518) 2.9
  Wood Frame Building. Construction (0510) 2.7
  Concrete Work - Foundations And Sidewalks (0217) 2.6
  Carpentry, Not Otherwise Classified (0516) 2.6
  HVAC Systems (0307) 2.5
  Plumbing (0306) 2.5
Health Care and Social Services 1.2
  Nursing Homes (6108) 3.8
  State Health Care Facilities (7201) 3.0
  Boarding Homes (6509) 2.1
Agriculture, Forestry, Fishing, and Hunting 0.9
  Sawmills (1002) 2.8
  Wood Products Manufacturing (2903) 2.8
Transportation and Warehousing (courier, warehouse) 1.8
  Beer Distributors (2105) 4.1
  Parcel Package Delivery (1101) 2.4
Transportation and Warehousing (air, rail, water, truck, transit) 1.6
  Moving Companies (6907) 5.5
  Airlines, Ground Crew (6802) 4.0
Manufacturing (metals, machines, electronics) 1.6
  Temporary Help-Machine Operation (7117) 6.6
  Temporary Help-Assembly (7114) 4.1
  Foundries, Not Otherwise Classified (5103) 3.6
Administrative and Support and Waste Management and Remediation 1.2
  Garbage Collection (4305) 3.9
* Washington Industrial Classification

WMSDS hazards found in work activities.

Some common hazards that cause WMSDs include:

  • Frequent or heavy lifting.
  • Awkward positions such as bending or reaching over your head.
  • Carrying heavy items.
  • Gripping or pinching items tightly.
  • Repeating the same motions quickly or for long periods of time.

The risk of developing WMSDs increases if more than one hazard occurs at the same time. The risk also increases as the frequency, duration, or intensity of the exposure to these hazards increase. However, not all hazards lead to all types of WMSDs. The chart below lists different types of WMSDs and common hazards that may cause them.

Table 3. Common Workplace Hazards Associated with Different Types of Work-Related Musculoskeletal Disorders (WMSDs)
Hazards WMSD of the neck Sciatica of the back WMSD of the upper extremity Rotator cuff syndrome of the shoulder Epicondylitis of the elbow/forearm Tendonitis and Carpal Tunnel Syndrome of the Hand/Wrist
Awkward Posture: Bent Back   Yes        
Awkward Posture: Bent Neck Yes     Yes    
Awkward Posture: Bent Wrists     Yes     Yes
Awkward Posture: Hands Over Head Yes   Yes Yes    
Carrying   Yes Yes Yes   Yes
High Hand Force: Pinching     Yes   Yes Yes
High Hand Force: Gripping     Yes   Yes Yes
Impact: Repeated     Yes   Yes Yes
Lifting: Heavy   Yes Yes Yes Yes  
Lifting: Frequent   Yes Yes Yes Yes  
Lifting: Awkward   Yes Yes Yes Yes  
Pushing/Pulling   Yes Yes Yes Yes  
Reaching   Yes Yes Yes Yes  
Repetitive Motion: Keying     Yes   Yes Yes
Repetitive Motion: Not Keying     Yes   Yes Yes
Vibration: Moderate to High Hand-Arm Vibration     Yes   Yes Yes
Whole Body Vibration   Yes        

Additional information

More details and information describing factors that might increase the risk of developing WMSDs can be found in the full report Work-related Musculoskeletal Disorders of the Neck, Back, and Upper Extremity in Washington State: State Fund and Self Insured Workers' Compensation Claims 1997-2005.

In addition:
Search the L&I Ergonomics Ideas Bank. You can discover what others in your industry have tried, their checklists, tips, and success stories.

End of main content, page footer follows.

Access Washington official state portal

   © Washington State Dept. of Labor & Industries. Use of this site is subject to the laws of the state of Washington.

Help us improve