The Mechanics of Work Related Muscular Skeletal Disorder: And what you can do about it

on November 9, 2016

What is a Work Related Muscular Skeletal Disorder (WMSD)?

The term ‘work related muscular skeletal disorder‘ is an umbrella term that describes a wide range of injuries that can affect the muscles, tendons, ligaments and nerves. These disorders reduce the ability of affected individuals to perform tasks and can lead to permanent disability in extreme cases. Muscular skeletal disorders/injuries can occur as  a gradual build up over time or can manifest as a seemingly sudden ‘blow out’.

Either way the impacts are often costly and debilitating for both the employee and the employer. Some general symptoms of muscular skeletal disorders include weakness, discomfort, pain, swelling, early onset of muscle fatigue, and even inability to sleep.

muscular skeletal injury

The Mechanism of injury and risk factors:

Muscular skeletal disorders vary in their mechanism of injury depending on what part of the body is affected.

For muscles cells the mechanism is generally a lack of blood flow due to continuous, frequent and repetitive muscle contractions. In turn this cause a build up of lactic acid and other waste materials which lead to inflammation of the muscle fibers and eventually the formation of scar tissue.

With Regard to tendons and ligaments muscular skeletal injuries are generally the result of interference with the tendon/ligament fibers ability to lubricate themselves. This leads to the formation of scar tissue, tears in the fibers and persistent inflammation.

With respect to nerve based muscular skeletal disorders the inflammation of surrounding fibers can lead to severe compression of nerves which in turn impacts the ability of the affected nerves to function.

Despite the broad range of disorders that constitute muscular skeletal injuries, there are consistent risk factors across the spectrum of disorders. The following are key predictors of the prevalence of work place muscular skeletal disorders:

  • Fixed/constrained/awkward body positions
  • Continual repetition of movements
  • Force concentrated on small or weak parts of the body
  • Insufficient recovery time between movements or tasks
  • Vibration
  • Poor health, fitness or nutrition
  • Forceful exertion

How can we prevent Work-related Muscular Skeletal Disorders?

The key to reducing the impact and prevalence of work related muscular skeletal disorders on our economy, and the quality of life of workers, is to minimise the exposure to risk factors in the workplace. It is about changing the paradigm in the Australian workplace and across the world. No employee should leave work in worse condition than they arrived. The technology and information is available for us to revolutionise our workplaces and it is time we brought the future into our workshops, our factories and our sheds.

The best solution to a such a broad issue as muscular skeletal injuries is a multifaceted approach that looks to target as many of the risk factors as possible. The following are a collection of strategies that are effective in addressing the risk factors for muscular skeletal injuries in the work place.

  1. Mechanisation/ Worker Augmentation: We do not have to replace workers with robots, but there are systems out there like the Ekso Bionics Zero G ergonomics tool arm and the Equipois X-Ar exoskeletal worker augmentation arm that are designed to relieve the stress placed on the muscular skeletal system while allowing workers to perform their tasks as they normally would. This type of engineered solution is a very direct and effective way to reduce the incidence of muscular skeletal injuries. The investment in this type of technology is small relative to the cost of muscular skeletal injury in the workplace. At this time there are several companies all over the world working on creating full body exoskeletal suits aimed at significantly reducing the exposure to  injury through manual handling.
  2. Job Rotation: By planning jobs in such a way that workers are able to rotate from high impact/stress jobs to low impact jobs at regular periods it is possible to significantly reduce the risk of muscular skeletal injury occurring. This sort of process not only aids with adequate recovery time for the muscular skeletal system, it can also lead to a happier, more productive workforce as the tedium of repetitive work is broken up and individuals develop multiple competencies in various areas or tasks.
  3. Task Enrichment: The aim of this technique is to broaden the variety of tasks built into an employees role. This can be seen as an extension of job rotation where in an employee undertakes a greater ranges of tasks within there role to accomplish a job. Once again this technique relies on planning the work being undertaken based on the load being placed on the worker by the task. It is important to try and organise the task or job in a way that allows the muscular skeletal system of the employee to adequately recover from strenuous tasks.
  4. Organise tasks around a team: By rearranging tasks to be efficiently completed by a small team of workers it is possible to share the load across the entire team thus reducing the impact on any one individual. The small, specialised team approach can lead to improved worker productivity and improved work place moral through the close interaction of team members.
  5. Workspace design: One of the key aspects to bringing workplaces into the future is work space design.  This concept relates to ensuring the physical area in which work is done is optimised to reinforce ideal body movements and reduce exposure to awkward positions. This concept can be as simple as ensuring that the necessary components for a manufacturing job are within easy arm reach, or reducing the need for workers to bend down or reach up to get what they need. This also involves ensuring easy access and egress and installing innovative devices in the workstation to aid the employee in their role. A prime example of this is the Ekso Bionics Zero G bench mount and workshop trolley systems. These systems can be adapted to almost any work space and are perfectly suited to applications where the use of heavy tools or parts are an unavoidable part of the task.


For more information contact Sigma Ergonomics and bring the future into your workplace:


Phone: 0410 895 075

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Muscular skeletal injuries cost us all! Are you willing to keep paying for it?

on November 8, 2016


How much are muscular skeletal injuries costing you?

Injuries due to overexertion and repetitive stress impose heavy costs on companies and their employees, including medical expenses, workers compensation premiums, lost time, retraining, rehabilitation, low morale, and more. These costs are pure waste, and every business would eliminate them if they had an effective solution.

In Australia through 2011-2012:

  • one out of every five serious claims involved back injuries
  • Sprains and strains accounted for 42.4% of all serious claims for workers compensation
  • Muscular Skeletal Disorders represented 13.7% of all worker compensation claims for work related disease
  • The main mechanism for injury was body stressing, which was the main factor in 40% of all the recorded injuries
  • The average serious claim involved at least 4 weeks absence from work, and many works could only return to partial duties

The above statistics are staggering, and the reality is that most of these injuries can be mitigated with technology that is readily available in Australia right now.  This amazing technology doesn’t cost an arm or a leg either; pun intended.

The Zero G technology now available from Sigma Ergonomics can often reduce injuries to zero for tasks involving use of tools and maneuvering parts. Zero G can also:

• Help injured workers return to work faster
• Reduce or eliminate the need for microbreaks, shifting of employees among tasks, and other inefficient practices
• Allow a wider range of employees (such as older or smaller workers) to perform tasks safely
• Be used to accommodate duty-restricted or disabled workers

Zero G has twice been awarded the Attendees Choice Award at the USA National Ergonomics Conference, given to products that offer the best opportunity to reduce injuries and increase productivity.

An Investment in Safety with True ROI

Surveys of business executives have confirmed that money spent on preventing injuries is money well spent with most applications achieving a return on investment rate of 100% within a 12 month period. The Zero G is a high-performance addition to your most challenging work environments that can positively impact the bottom line. Zero G helps users to achieve or exceed key R.O.I. benchmarks by reducing injuries, increasing productivity and promoting quality.


For more information, or if you have any questions about our range of innovative ergonomics equipment visit our website:


Phone: 02 8005 6064



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The Sigma Ergonomics Wear plate replacement system

on September 18, 2016

Sigma Ergonomics has made the replacement of ground engaging tool wear plates easier and safer than ever with its Wear Plate Replacement System. We have done this by combining the Ekso Bionics Zero G ergonomic tool arm with a bespoke magnetic lift assist system from Industrial Magnetics Incorporated. The Zero G ergonomic tool arm supports the weight of the heavy impact wrenches or torque tools used to undo or reinstall the bolts holding the wear plates to the blade or bucket. The magnetic lift assist is used to lift the heavy wear plates off of the blade or bucket and to reinstall the new wear plates.
The video below demonstrates how the two systems work together to complete the job in a safe and efficient manner.

The Zero G Ergonomic Tool Arm

the Ekso Bionics Zero G Tool system is a tried and tested tool handling arm that supersedes the very restrictive tool balancers available on the market. The arm is completely passive and is fully articulated which allows workers to use the tools as they normally would.The Zero G not only reduces the fatigue and stress placed on the muscular skeletal system, it also allows users to be more accurate and efficient in their roles. With the rising cost of workplace injuries and the significant prevalence of muscular skeletal injuries in the Australian workplace the Zero G systems is becoming a key feature of the modern workplace. Sigma Ergonomics has already supplied dozens of these systems into mines all over Australia, the Zero G has survived the rigorous, abrasive and destructive environments present at many mine sites due to its robust simplicity. The system requires very little maintenance and is fully supported Australia wide by Sigma Ergonomics.

Sigma Ergonomics ergonomic industrial tool interface weightless wear plate removal GET Mining

Industrial Magnetics Inc. GET Wear Plate Lifter

The magnetic lift assist supplied by Sigma Ergonomics as part of the GET system is designed and built in the US specifically for the task of removing GET wear plates from various dozers and graders used in mining/earth moving operations. The system features two very powerful permanent magnets which are engaged/disengaged via pneumatic cylinders. The magnets are rated to lift up to a tonne in order to achieve a 300% safety factor for picking up the wear plates. The system also features a pneumatic tilt function which allows the user to match the angle of the blade or bucket on which the wear plate has to be installed/removed. Included in the package is a trolley for easy movement and storage of the system, 2 easy locate spigots to help locate the wear plate on the blade easily and a fully rated shackle or mounting point to use the system with an overhead crane. The magnet system can be mounted from a forklift or overhead crane to suit the area it is being used in. Recently Sigma Ergonomics has updated the magnet system to include the following:

  •   Floating handle so that operators no longer have to move their arms as the system is raised and lowered
  • Crane control mount so that the system can be operate jointly with an overhead crane
  • New corner piece magnet system to remove/reinstall the corner tip wear plates on various systems


Safety Features

  • 300% safety factor on lift capacity
  • Metal lip on the bottom of the system to stop the plates from slipping when the system is oriented at perpendicular to the ground
  • Magnets remain fully engaged if the system loses air pressure. Even if a pneumatic line bursts the magnets will continue to hold the wear plate
  • System is compliant with Australian Regulations
  • Purchase of the system includes training by Sigma Ergonomics in order to safely use the system


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Zero G goes Aerial: Making EWPs safer and easier to work from

on September 14, 2016
EWP ergonomics muscular skeletal injury prevention Sigma Ergonomics
the Ekso Bionics Aerial system featuring the Zero G ergonomic tool interface

Ekso Bionics has made it easier and safer than ever to work use heavy tools in an elevated work platform. The Ekso Bionics Aerial system is designed to mount the revolutionary Zero G ergonomic tool interface to the railing of most elevated work platforms. The Aerial system is easy to install, easy to maneuver, and fully supports the weight of any tool mounted to the system. This allows you or your employees to focus on safely and accurately completing their task. Below is a video demonstrating the impact that using the aerial system has on worker productivity and health:

As you can see in the video the worker with access to the Aerial system completed the job faster and with less strain on their body than the worker who was using the traditional approach. This system is already being used in the construction industry in countries across the world to support heavy drills, jack hammers and grinders. The productivity increase alone is phenomenal. However, the reduction in muscular skeletal injury and fatigue is one of the most important aspects of the Ekso Bionics Zero G system. Workplace injury costs the Australian economy and estimated $60.6 billion every year With the rising cost to business of workplace injuries the time could not be better for companies to invest in injury preventing equipment such as the Ekso Bionics Zero G systems. Below is an interview with a demolition business that has adopted the new technology in America:

For more information on the range of products supplied by Sigma Ergonomics on behalf of Ekso Bioncs feel free to email us at or call us on 02 8005 6064

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on June 16, 2016

Sigma Ergonomics has just signed an agreement with Ekso Bionics to become a distributor in South East Asia and the Asia Pacific region. The aim of Sigma Ergonomics is to bring the innovative tool handling and exoskeletal creations of Ekso Bionics to the rest of the Asia Pacific and South East Asian regions.
Ekso Bionics started in 2005 under the name Berkley Exoworks and debuted the first version of the ExoHiker. The ExoHiker was a revolutionary exoskeletal suit that enabled the user to carry 68kg without experiencing any of the weight through their muscular skeletal systems. The exoskeletal apparatus supported the entire weight and allowed the wearer to move around as normal.

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on June 15, 2016

Recently in the US the  X-Ar has been used to help improve the quality of life for sufferers of muscular dystrophy.  Zachary Smith, a young man with muscular dystrophy, was brave enough to reach out to the suppliers of the X-Ar and ask them for a trial of the product.

Muscular dystrophy encompasses a group of diseases that weaken the muscular-skeletal system. There are over 30 different types of muscular dystrophy each with different causes. These diseases are cause by alterations in our genetic make up which disrupt key muscle building functions and lead to muscle wastage. As the disease progresses individuals with the disease become wheelchair bound and struggle to perform everyday tasks. There is no cure for muscular dystrophy at the moment. However, there are a number of treatments aimed at slowing down the progression of the disease. These include physical therapy, occupational therapy and corticosteroid use.

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