Overexertion at work

Because overexertions are a leading cause of injuries in the workplace, here are some more tips to help keep you safe at work. You can also visit our tools on lifting guidelines and push/pull guidelines. If you are responsible for the safety of others, you can find more ideas for workplace safety here.

Safety professionals at BWC look at these factors when assessing the risk for overexertion injuries:

  • Forceful exertions
  • Awkward postures
  • Rapid movements
  • Unanticipated muscle loading
Click on the boxes for helpful tips.

Forceful exertions

Pushing, pulling and lifting often require forceful exertion, which might result in back pain or other issues. Other tasks such as using hand tools and operating equipment can also require forceful exertions on a particular muscle or group of muscles.

Reduce forceful exertions by:

  • Using mechanical assistance to move heavy loads when possible
  • Using power tools to avoid high forces
  • Reducing the weight of loads that need to be handled manually
  • Reducing the resistance when pushing/pulling

Awkward postures

Awkward postures are any non-neutral body postures that are either repeated or sustained. Bending and twisting any of the body parts in an unnatural way increase potential for overexertion injuries, especially when combined with forceful exertions.

Reduce awkward postures when lifting, pushing and pulling by:

  • Minimizing the need for bending, reaching, and twisting when exerting force
  • Making sure there is adequate space so you can get in good position
  • Keeping loads that need to be lifted manually in a range from knee to chest height
  • Pushing instead of pulling when possible
  • Avoiding lifting, pushing and pulling off to the side of the body
  • Reminding yourself and others of the importance of using good body mechanics at all times

Rapid movements and unanticipated muscle loading

These increase the potential for overexertion because they don't allow the body to apply muscle strength in an efficient manner. Slipping, rushing or reacting to the sudden movement of a load activates muscles quickly. This can result in strains and sprains because it's hard to use the supporting muscle groups in a coordinated, effective manner.

Reduce rushing and sudden, unexpected muscle loading by:

  • Avoiding forced pacing - provide adequate time and buffer space
  • Minimizing the potential for loads to shift during handling
  • Avoiding the need to "catch" loads or using the body to stop the movement of loads
  • Minimizing tripping and slipping hazards
  • Ensuring that loads and carts have well-positioned handles
  • Avoiding the need to open doors or climb steps when pushing/pulling or carrying loads
  • Warming up/stretching before physical exertions

Temperature extremes

Working in a hot environment under high metabolic load can lead to heat stress, whole body fatigue, and/or cardiovascular strain. Working in a cold environment can result in reduced blood flow and muscle tension, which makes muscles more susceptible to strains.

Reduce risks associated with temperature extremes by:

  • Wearing proper clothing
  • Taking frequent breaks in normal temperatures
  • Stretching properly
  • Drinking plenty of water