by Rick Barker, CPE
Most ergonomists discourage the use of wrist braces as an injury prevention strategy. There is no compelling evidence that braces help prevent musculoskeletal injuries. In many jobs, introducing a brace actually increases awkward shoulder and elbow postures as the employee uses different arm positions to compensate for the lack of wrist mobility.
Simply relying upon an employee’s short-term feedback that the job feels better or is easier to do while using the brace is not sufficient evidence for using wrist braces on a specific job or site. One would expect a wrist brace to provide short-term benefits for employees who have experienced prolonged wear and tear on their hands/wrists. The concern that must be considered, but is not addressed by subjective feedback, is the longer-term wear and tear on the rest of the arm, particularly the shoulder.
Any use of a wrist brace, including use under a physician’s care, should trigger a detailed ergonomics assessment to determine if the wrist brace may be introducing new hazards into the workplace. This type of assessment requires careful video comparisons with and without the brace in order to verify that the employee’s shoulder and arm positions are not impacted.