Reduce 33% of all Workplace Injuries: 6 Steps to Take Today
Everyone wants to reduce accidents and injuries in the workplace and sometimes making simple adjustments to daily work practices can have a significant impact.
What if I told you that you could reduce 33% of all workplace accidents by preventing just one thing? What Is Overexertion?
Overexertion is any workplace injury resulting from work activities that include lifting, pulling, moving, throwing or carrying and is the leading cause of non-fatal workplace injuries at 33%. Overexertion is also the most expensive of injuries, as it accounted for $15.08 billion in direct U.S. workers' compensation costs, according to the 2016 Liberty Mutual Safety Index.
Overexertion injuries are disorders of the soft tissue, specifically of the muscles, nerves, tendons, ligaments, joints, cartilage, blood vessels and spinal discs. Symptoms can include everything from posture problems and intermittent discomfort, to tendonitis, chronic pain and disability.
Overexertion injuries are caused by:
- Excessive lifting, lowering, pushing, pulling, reaching or stretching - Repetitive motion - Working in awkward positions - Sitting or standing for prolonged periods - Using excessive force - Vibration, resting on sharp corners or edges
The good news is there are several ways to protect your employees and prevent these injuries.
1) Stretch Before Lifting Or Moving Heavy Objects
You don't want your workers lifting or moving heavy objects without stretching first. They are more likely to strain, sprain or tear a muscle while lifting a heavy, cumbersome object if they don't properly stretch beforehand. Stretching warms up muscles and gets them loose, preventing the chance for injury.
2) Ask For Help If An Object Is Too Heavy
Workers are often too proud to ask for help when lifting a very heavy object. However, lifting an object that is too heavy creates additional stress on the back. This added stress on the back easily leads to an overexertion injury, usually of the sprain, strain or tear variety.
When attempting to lift a very heavy object requiring more than one person to lift, encourage your workers to ask someone nearby for help or use a machine designed to aid in lifting. This includes support belts, slings, grate lifters, lifting gloves and attachable handles.
3) Use The Proper Technique When Lifting An Object
Using improper technique while lifting objects is one of the main causes of overexertion and workplace injuries. Some examples of improper techniques include bending over at the waist to pick an object up or twisting and holding the object away from the body.
Encourage your workers to practice the proper lifting technique:
- Keep a wide base of support - Squat down, bending at the hips and knees only - Maintain good posture by keeping the back straight - Lift slowly by straightening hips/knees, not the back - Hold the load close to the body at the belly button - Use feet to change directions - Lead with the hips, keeping shoulders in line - Set the load down by squatting with hips and knees
4) Allow Time to Recover From Strain and Fatigue
Jobs that require a series of motions every few seconds with little variation, produces fatigue and muscle-tendon strain. When not given adequate time to recover, the risk of tissue damage and other problems increases. Grant workers a 60 to 90-second break to stop doing the activity and have them do this every 20 to 30 minutes. Also encourage workers to practice proper posture to prevent injuries.
5) Eliminate Awkward or Prolonged Postures
Jobs that include any fixed or constrained body position that's more than 20 degrees out of neutral is considered awkward. For example, if you work with your wrist bent 45 degrees, 40% of your grip strength is lost. This means you have to exert 40% more force to perform the job task, creating strains and sprains that overtime develop in to debilitating injuries. To eliminate this you should find the root cause and from there eliminate awkward postures with engineering and administrative controls. Some of the root causes include work height in relation to the worker or tools used forcing awkward postures.
6) Control and Reduce Vibrations
Prolonged use of vibratory tools breaks down the small capillaries in the fingers, restricting blood flow. Although it can take years of exposure to experience symptoms, it could result in blanching of the fingers from loss of blood flow. Use vibration-damping materials such as gloves or tool wraps, to control the vibrations and protect your employees.
By implementing these preventative workplace safety practices you can cut down your workplace injuries by 33%. To effectively implement these practices you should work with a safety partner who can identify the specific risks in your facility and recommend the proper controls.