Overexertion injuries are among the most common type of work-related injury in the United States. According a 2007 Liberty Mutual Workplace Safety Index, employers spent more than $12.7 billion in direct costs towards the treatment of overexertion injuries. Examples include carpal tunnel syndrome, tarsal tunnel syndrome, herniated disc, pulled muscles,etc. So, what steps can you take to reduce the risk of overexertion injuries in your workplace?
What Causes Overexertion Injuries
The first step towards preventing work-related overexertion injuries is to understand what's causing them. As the name suggests, an overexertion injury is the result of a worker pushing him or herself beyond their body's physical limits. If a worker continues to lift heavy objects -- even thought it's causing pain and discomfort -- he or she could sustain an overexertion injury.
There are two primary forms of overexertion injuries: sprains, which consist of ligament tears, and strains, which consist of muscle or tendon tears. Physically exerting one's self beyond their normal limits can result in small, microscopic tears in either the ligaments, muscles or tendons. These tears are typically small, but they can still produce pain -- and lots of it.
Tips to Prevent Overexertion Injuries
- Workers should take breaks throughout their shift, even if they prefer to "work through them."
- Workers should be trained to lift with their legs, not their backs (note: back pain tops the list as being the most common type of work-related overexertion injury.
- Employers should consider using a buddy system in which two workers observe each other for signs of overexertion injury.
- Alternate job tasks/stations among workers. By rotating workers through different stations, it will naturally force them to work in different positions; thus, reducing the risk of overexertion injuries.
- Hold regular safety meetings in which employers and workers discuss their concerns and share ideas relating to workplace safety.
- Encourage workers to report work-related injuries -- including overexertion injuries -- to management.
- Place anti-fatigue mats in work stations. Featuring a soft, absorbent material, anti-fatigue mats help to reduce the strain on a worker's feet and body.
- Encourage workers to stretch before performing physically exhausitve jobs or tasks.