No matter what type of industry you work in, chances are that several of your employees will at some time begin to suffer from osteoarthritis, a common health problem that can become extremely debilitating. Though it might start with minor joint tenderness, untreated osteoarthritis can quickly lead to increased pain and debilitating stiffness in the knees, fingers, wrists, shoulders,and virtually any other joint of the human body.
Once this musculoskeletal and connective tissue disorder progresses even further, it can lead to larger or a “knobbly” appearance of the joints which can make any sort of movement extremely painful.
The U.S. Center for Disease Control (CDC) estimates that at least 1 in 4 (about 54.4 million) US adults have some form of arthritis. That figure is actually expected to increase to 78 million US adults by the year 2040 as the population ages. Though there are estimated to be more than 100 different types of arthritis, osteoarthritis (OA) is the most common form of arthritis, affecting at least 32.5 million US adults.
In this short article, we will explain what osteoarthritis is, and how it can affect your workforce. Specifically, we will take an in-depth look at the osteoarthritis work restrictions, and how the osteoarthritis disability discrimination act.
To help employers prevent OA in their workforce, we will end by looking at how osteoarthritis can be caused by injury, and some strategies that businesses can implement to limit the prevalence and severity of OA amongst their workers.
What is Osteoarthritis?
The CDC defines Osteoarthritis (OA) as “the most common form of arthritis. Some people call it degenerative joint disease or ‘wear-and-tear’ arthritis. It occurs most frequently in the hands, hips, and knees. With OA, the cartilage within a joint begins to break down and the underlying bone begins to change.”
In many cases, osteoarthritis is a predictable ailment that affects people who have worked their entire lives at jobs that require repetitive movement of certain joints. From construction workers who bend over repeatedly, to secretaries and other office workers who spend long hours working at and sitting in front of a computer, virtually every type of job task could potentially lead to OA due to the repetitive motions that inevitably lead to wear and tear on our joints.
However, there is a huge difference between suffering from OA at the age of 95 and at the age of 35. In many younger people, osteoarthritis can begin to develop due to the following factors:
- Being overweight or obese, which puts extra pressure on the weight-bearing joints
- Having a sedentary lifestyle
- Working at a job that requires sitting down for long periods of time, and that does not encourage proper ergonomic practices can lead to osteoarthritis in the lower spine
- Any other job that requires repetitive tasks that can lead to excessive wear and tear on certain joints
Osteoarthritis Work Restrictions
Employees that suffer from OA will understandably be limited to certain tasks that they can perform. If you have workers who suffer from moderate to severe forms of osteoarthritis in their shoulders, arms, hands, hips, or knees, you may have to limit their job tasks that require lifting, reaching, typing, writing, or grabbing. For severe cases of OA, employees may be considered to be legally disabled, which obviously affects their ability to do certain jobs.
For workers with severe OA, the American with Disabilities Act (ADA) does offer some protection in terms of worker rights that all businesses need to abide by. According to the Arthritis Foundation:
“To be officially considered under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), your doctor must first
diagnose you as having a disability. If you have limited mobility, significant pain or moderate to
severe arthritis, you probably qualify. See your physician to know for sure.”
How to Prevent Osteoarthritis in your Workforce?
Every business, no matter what industry you are in, should implement policies to help limit the negative effects of OA among their workers. One of the best ways to do this is to implement ergonomically well-designed workstations for your employees.
This can encourage proper posture and positions to limit the negative effects of repetitive movements. Furthermore, employers should also encourage the best ergonomic work practices for your employees, including proper lifting techniques for jobs that are physically demanding.
Keep Your Workers Pain-Free With Work-Fit
Work-Fit is one leading company that offers onsite and telehealth injury prevention, management, and employee wellness programs for your workforce. We are the nationwide leader in applying sports medicine techniques in the workplace to prevent injuries and increase your company's bottom line.
Our team of professionals can help your company design and implement effective strategies for optimizing the ergonomic design for any type of business. We can also help you train your employees in the best practices to limit the negative effects of osteoarthritis.
Our ergonomics program is a great resource to help your business generate savings on workers’ compensation by identifying the root cause of recurrent musculoskeletal disorders that keeps valuable workers away from the job.
If you are interested in improving the ergonomics of your employees and limiting the negative effects of OA, contact us today to learn about how we can help your team!