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How to Prevent Sprains and Strains in the Workplace

Prevent Sprains and Strains

Did you know that sprains and strains are the leading injury category in the manufacturing environment? It’s true. Not only that, but according to the worker’s compensation data, strains are the top accident category in manufacturing by claims frequency and severity.

The data tells us that sprains and strains are common and costly in industry today. They are costly (and unacceptable) for businesses, they are costly (and painful) for workers and they are costly (and frustrating) for safety professionals. If this situation rings true at your company, it’s time to make a decision to take proactive steps to take on these common and costly problems.

You’ll be happy to hear that sprains and strains are preventable in every workplace. What follows is a comprehensive (yet simple) approach to a complex problem. It’s a simple matter of identifying risk factors and systematically implementing control measures. The hard part is deciding to reduce all risk factors, gaining 100% leadership commitment and instituting a process that persists over the course of time.

Individual Risk Factors:

  • Poor work practices. Workers who use poor work practices, body mechanics and lifting techniques are introducing unnecessary risk factors that can contribute to MSDs. These poor practices create unnecessary stress on their bodies that increases fatigue and decreases their body’s ability to properly recover.
  • Poor overall health habits. Workers who smoke, drink excessively, are obese, or exhibit numerous other poor health habits are putting themselves at risk for not only musculoskeletal disorders, but also for other chronic diseases that will shorten their life and health span.
  • Poor rest and recovery. MSDs develop when fatigue outruns the workers recovery system, causing a musculoskeletal imbalance. Workers who do not get adequate rest and recovery put themselves at higher risk.
  • Poor nutrition, fitness and hydration. For a country as developed as the United States, an alarming number of people are malnourished, dehydrated and at such a poor level of physical fitness that climbing one flight of stairs puts many people out of breath. Workers who do not take care of their bodies are putting themselves at a higher risk of developing musculoskeletal and chronic health problems.
  • No recognition of early signs and symptoms: Many MSDs develop over the course of time. At the first signs of excessive fatigue/discomfort, the worker has an opportunity to recognize the early signs and symptoms and proactively use recommended injury prevention tools and principles. Not recognizing early warning signs lends to a reactive approach – and it’s only a matter of time until these signs and symptoms develop into a musculoskeletal injury.

The more risk factors a worker is exposed to, the greater the likelihood of an injury occurring. As you can see from the MSD Risk Spectrum above, when both ergonomic risk factors and individual risk factors are present, the greater the likelihood of a musculoskeletal injury / disorder.

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