OVEREXERTION AT WORK

Overexertions are a leading cause of injuries in the workplace. We have lots of basic tips for you, but here's a bit more to help keep you safe in the workplace. You also can learn about lifting guidelines.

RISK FACTORS

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FORCEFUL EXERTIONS

Manual material handling tasks such as pushing, pulling and lifting often require forceful exertion. Such exertion may result in back pain or other musculoskeletal disorders. However, other tasks such as using hand tools and operating equipment can also require forceful exertions on a particular muscle or group of muscles.

Ways to reduce forceful exertions include:

  • Use mechanical assistance to move heavy loads when possible;
  • Use power tools to avoid high forces;
  • Reduce the weight of loads that need to be handled manually;
  • Reduce the resistance that the worker must act against 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 manner increase potential for overexertion injuries, especially when combined with forceful exertions.

Ways to reduce awkward postures when lifting, pushing and pulling include:

  • Approach the job to minimize the need for bending, reaching and twisting when exerting force;
  • Make sure there is adequate space so you can get in good position;
  • Keep loads that need to be lifted manually in a range from knee to chest height;
  • Push instead of pull when possible;
  • Avoid the need for lifting, pushing and pulling off to the side of the body;
  • Remind 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 do not 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. Such action can result in strains and sprains because it's difficult to use the various supporting muscle groups in a coordinated, effective manner.

Ways to reduce rushing and sudden, unexpected muscle loading include:

  • Avoid forced pacing - provide adequate time and buffer space;
  • Minimize the potential for loads to shift during handling;
  • Avoid the need for "catching" loads or using the body to stop the movement of loads;
  • Minimize tripping and slipping hazards;
  • Ensure that loads and carts have well-positioned handles;
  • Avoid having to open doors or climb steps when pushing/pulling or carrying loads;
  • Warm up/stretch before performing physical exertions.

TEMPERATURE EXTREMES

Temperature extremes can also have an impact on the potential for overexertion injuries. 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.

Ways to reduce risks associated with temperature extremes include:

  • Wear the proper clothing;
  • Take frequent breaks in temperature controlled areas;
  • Stretch properly;
  • Drink plenty of water.

If you're responsible for the safety of others, you can find more ideas for workplace safety here.

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