How to Identify a Musculoskeletal Injury – AgSafe

Posted by Moss Dance on September 17, 2018

AgSafe - Identifying Musculoskeletal Injury

By Wendy Bennett, CRSP, Executive Director, AgSafe

Agricultural work requires intensive physical labour—heavy lifting and carrying, maintaining the same position for extended periods of time, and standing on ladders or uneven surfaces. Any one of these activities can lead to a Musculoskeletal Injury (MSI).

A musculoskeletal injury is an injury or disorder of the muscles, tendons, ligaments, joints, nerves, blood vessels or related soft tissue, and includes sprains, strains, and inflammation that may be caused or aggravated by work.

You are at risk for MSI if your work involves any of the following – lifting or reaching, lowering, carrying, pushing or pulling; using the same muscles repeatedly over a long period of time without rest; incorrect posture when doing a task; or resting on a hard-edged or sharp surface.

Tendinitis, a swelling of a tendon – the band of tissues that attaches muscle to bone, and Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, pressure on a nerve in the wrist resulting in numbness, tingling pain or weakness in the hand, wrist or forearm, are commonly identified MSIs.

MSI Injury Types:

  • Acute Injury – Occurs when the physical demands of the situation suddenly exceed the capacity of the tissue. These injuries are the typical “incident” type injury (e.g. slips, trips and falls.).
  • Repetitive Injury – Continuous repetitive movement of the same muscles causes those muscles to fatigue and slowly break down. Over time the capacity of the muscle tissue ceases to be equal to the physical demands of the job and an injury occurs.
  • Static Injury – Occurs when a posture is held for an extended period of time causing muscle tissue to fatigue and slowly break down, reducing the capacity of the tissue to generate or produce force.

Symptoms of musculoskeletal injury may appear immediately or gradually over time and range from swelling and redness, to weakness or difficulty moving a particular part of the body, pain, tingling or numbness.

A musculoskeletal injury can be treated more effectively if addressed early with application of cold or heat, medication, physical therapy or surgery, depending on the severity of the injury. Inform your supervisor and report to the first aid person immediately if symptoms appear.

In British Columbia, back strain accounted for twenty to twenty-five per cent of claims reported to WorkSafeBC between 2007 and 2016.  Muscle strain to the neck, shoulders, wrists, hands, waist, hips, and knees are also common.

Musculoskeletal injury prevention and management resources available on the AgSafe website


For over twenty years AgSafe has been the expert on safety in the workplace for British Columbia’s agriculture industry and offers site-specific health and safety programs, education, evaluation and consultation services.

For more information about AgSafe services or agriculture workplace safety call 1-877-533-1789 or visit

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