Working in a manufacturing setting can be quite challenging. Many people in this field have to perform the same task repeatedly every day. That can mean eight hours or more a day on your feet, as well as straining your back, hips, knees and hands. For those who hope to retire from manufacturing jobs, repetitive-motion injuries — also called repetitive-stress injuries — could prove a bigger risk than a catastrophic workplace accident.
While workers do end up hurt due to accidents with machinery, collisions with objects or chemical spills, the daily wear and tear of physical labor contributes to many cases of disabilities and workplace injuries. These injuries develop slowly over time, as you perform your job. You may not have any symptoms at all. Then one day, pain starts becoming an issue.
The human body isn't built to do the same thing all the time
The human body is an amazing biological machine, capable of doing many varied tasks. However, the bone and muscle structure of the human body wasn't developed the way factory machines are. Your body isn't meant to constantly do the same thing, while standing or sitting in the same position. Repeated actions can result in debilitating repetitive-motion injuries to connective and support tissue, like the bursa and tendons.
Working on assembly lines may limit how much production strain one employee must assume, but it also creates the potential for bodily harm by requiring that human perform the same task over and over, like a machine. Unlike machines, which engineers can maintain and repair, it's impossible to upgrade your body when your work tasks cause injuries. All you can do it take the time you need to heal.
There may be a culture of trying to push past the pain
In most manufacturing settings, quotas and rapid work paces are the standard. When you start to feel pain, tingling, weakness or numbness in your hands, for example, you may not be able to slow down, stretch your wrists or take a break. Many of your co-workers may even brag about how uncomfortable a day's work can make them.
Even if people in your workplace value pushing themselves past comfort to get the job done, you shouldn't ignore your symptoms. If they persist for more than a shift or two, you absolutely need to seek medical evaluation. The longer a repetitive-motion injury goes without treatment, the worse your prognosis and symptoms may become.
You may not feel like you can take a break
If you don't think you can afford time off of work to recover, your injuries may persist or even get worse over time. After a diagnosis of a work-related repetitive motion injury, you need to seriously consider filing a claim for workers' compensation. Not only will the benefits cover your medical treatment, they can replace a portion of your wages while you recover.