Mitigating Overexertion Injuries in the Workplace

Workplace safety varies from industry to industry. The precautions taken for a construction worker are not the same as those taken for a receptionist. That said, the broad category of risks faced by both blue- and white-collar workers share certain similarities. Injuries are costly, demoralizing and, perhaps most important of all, preventable.

So, what is the importance of investing in workplace safety? How can we be proactive in preventing injuries? These are two of the questions we will explore here.

What are the Costs?

According to the Liberty Mutual 2020 Workplace Safety Index, workplace injuries cost businesses in the U.S. an estimated $1 billion per week or more, and those are only direct costs associated with medical expenses and wages lost. Workplace injuries have numerous indirect costs as well. They include:

  • Loss of employee engagement and decreased employee morale
  • Training costs for employees who cover the roles of injured coworkers
  • Lost productivity and production delays as employees adjust to new tasks
  • Overtime paid as employees work longer hours to make up for increased work loads
  • Legal fees, disruptions from formal investigations and time spent on documentation

What are the Causes?

It is helpful for us to understand the risks we face in the workplace. According to the Injury Facts website, overexertion and bodily reaction constituted 31% of all workplace injuries in 2019, nearly one-third of all reported injuries that year.

Overexertion injuries result from strain to muscles, joints and ligaments when performing tasks that involve lifting, pushing, pulling, carrying and repetitive motion. There are several causes for these types of injuries including:

  1. Repetitive movements: Heavy micro task loads such as data entry and assembly line work
  2. Improper technique: Improper use of lifting techniques, poor posture, or using the wrong safety gear
  3. Sudden body movements: Suddenly twisting, bending, pushing, etc.
  4. Prolonged activity: Overtraining or excessive activity
  5. Extreme temperatures: Prolonged exposure to extreme heat or cold

Prevention Methods

Many occupations involve lifting, pushing and generally moving bulky supplies and heavy equipment. It is no wonder then that overexertion injuries are so prevalent. Fortunately, there are simple measures that can be taken to mitigate these risks. Missouri Employers Mutual suggests the following preventative measures:

  • Stabilize your body by keeping your feet shoulder width apart
  • Avoid sudden movements or twisting while lifting
  • Use gloves that help your hands grip the load
  • Scan for trip and slip hazards before lifting
  • Break loads down into manageable sizes
  • Get help and team-lift heavy loads

Motorizing Workloads

Along with using the proper personal protective equipment and lifting techniques, implementing equipment designed to transport materials safely is another important consideration. Pushing and pulling loads can cause a great deal of strain over time. Many industries take advantage of motorized carts, tugs and dollies to improve not only the safety of their teams, but their efficiency as well.

Systems like PHS West’s Ergo-Express® Motorized Cart allow a single operator to transport loads that would otherwise require multiple team members making multiple trips. The use of motorized transport equipment equates to less risk and faster transport times.

Would you like to learn more about how PHS West helps make your workplace safer? Check out our motorized carts page or give us a call at 888.639.5438.

References

2020 workplace SAFETY index: The top 10 causes of disabling injuries. Liberty Mutual. (2020, October 16). https://viewpoint.libertymutualgroup.com/article/2020-workplace-safety-index-the-top-10-causes-of-disabling-injuries/

Barker, R. (2021, March 22). Understanding the Total Cost of an Injury. EHS Today. https://www.ehstoday.com/safety/article/21158959/understanding-the-total-cost-of-an-injury

Lifting Techniques: MEM – Missouri Employers Mutual. MEM. (2019, March 15). https://www.mem-ins.com/resource/lifting-techniques/

The Signs of Overexertion and How to Protect Yourself from Injury and Burnout. Healthline. (2020, December 8).https://www.healthline.com/health/overexertion

Top Work-Related Injury Causes. Injury Facts. (2021, January 8). https://injuryfacts.nsc.org/work/work-overview/top-work-related-injury-causes/