Workplace injuries are all too common in the United States. According to the National Safety Council, a U.S. worker is injured every seven seconds, for a total of 4.5 million on-the-job injuries every year. And while many of these injuries are relatively minor, the total cost in terms of lost productivity is enormous. The agency estimates that over 1.4 million production days were lost as a result of workplace injuries in 2016.
Overexertion is currently the top cause of all workplace injuries and the top contributor to worker’s compensation costs. This type of injury accounted for more than $15 billion, or nearly a quarter of total workers comp costs in 2012, and that number will only increase as health care costs continue to rise. That’s why it’s so important for workers and their employers to understand the hazards of overexertion and learn how to prevent overexertion injuries before they occur.
What Is Overexertion?
Overexertion is a catch-all phrase that encompasses a wide array of injuries that can be broadly catagorized as ergonomic in nature. The injuries themselves are usually soft-tissue injuries such as sprains, strains, bruises and tears involving the muscles, tendons, ligaments and/or joints. Back injuries involving the spinal column, such as herniated or ruptured disks, fall into this category as well. (Low back pain is the number one cause of lost work in the United States.)
Overexertion injuries can usually be traced to predictable causes. These include:
- Lifting, pulling or pushing a heavy object
- Reaching or stretching
- Awkward positioning, poor posture
- Sitting or standing for prolonged periods
- Repetitive motion
- Temperature extremes
This type of injury sometimes occurs due to a single, sudden movement. However, they are more often cumulative in nature. For example, sitting at a computer for long periods of time can lead to poor posture and back strain. Similarly, repeatedly lifting heavy objects using poor body mechanics can eventually cause a herniated or ruptured intervertebral disc, which may lead to long term disability and chronic pain.
Strategies to Prevent Overexertion Injuries
Overexertion injuries are entirely preventable if workers understand the hazards and know how to work in a more ergonomic way. Here are some specific strategies that you can teach your employees to help them do their jobs more safely (and more effectively).
- Push, don’t full. Pushing a heavy load puts less stress on the lower back.
- Lift with your legs. Proper positioning is essential to safely lifting even relatively light loads. Stand close to the object you need to lift, bend your knees and contract your abdominal muscles while flexing the knees. With hands shoulder width apart, lift the object by engaging the leg muscles, not the lower back.
- Know your limits. Don’t try to do more than you are physically able to do.
- Ask for help.
- Avoid jerking movements. The safest way to move any object is gradually.
- Take frequent breaks. Many overexertion injuries are caused by muscle fatigue.
- When working on a computer or sitting for long periods of time, get up every 20 minutes and stretch or move around.
- Limit the amount of time spent using of vibrating hand tools.
With a little bit of planning and thinking ahead, overexertion injuries can become far less commonplace.
About the Carmoon Group
The Carmoon Group, Ltd. is an independent insurance broker located in Hicksville, New York. Through our large network of nationwide affiliates, we provide comprehensive business insurance to companies all across the United States. Our professional agents have the knowledge and expertise to help with all of your insurance and risk management needs. So, why not give us a call now to schedule an appointment for your insurance review? Or if you prefer, simply reach out online and we will get back to you at a convenient time.