According to the National Safety Council, overexertion continues to be the leading cause of injuries across all age groups. It causes 35% of all work-related injuries, is the leading contributor to worker’s compensation costs, and is the top reason for lost work days. But what exactly is this safety issue, and how we can prevent it in our workplace and homes?
What is overexertion?
Overexertion occurs when the body is physically working while fatigued or pushed beyond its physical capacity and limitations of the soft tissue.
Activities involving repetitive motion often cause overexertion, such as lifting, carrying, pulling, or pushing heavy objects, overextending reach, bending or twisting, sitting or standing with poor posture, and routinely absorbing vibration (such as from machinery).
The most common types of injuries from overexertion are sprains and strains. However, especially for those not in top physical shape, overexertion may also cause an extreme pulse of adrenaline, potentially triggering a heart attack.
Most injuries from overexertion can be treated with medical care. However, chronic issues like carpal tunnel syndrome and osteoarthritis may develop from excessive overexertion.
Overexerting oneself while shoveling snow may cause an extreme pulse of adrenaline, which could trigger a heart attack. The repetitive motions of shoveling snow may also cause the body to be pushed past its limits, resulting in muscle sprains or strains. Photo by Filip Mroz on Unsplash
How to prevent overexertion
Similar to all safety incidents, injuries related to overexertion are 100% preventable. Employers and workers, both, must ensure that the worker’s physical limitations meet the demands of each day’s work.
PLH Group— a leading, full-service company comprised of 11 entities serving electric power line, pipeline, oil field electrical and industrial markets– uses their PREVENT safety program to ensure that all safety considerations are discussed prior to commencing work, ensuring that each individual, as well as the whole of the team, are capable of performing the required work.
Other considerations that PLH Group companies examine and exercise to avoid and prevent overexertion include:
Creating ergonomic work spaces and practicing good posture. This practice applies to both field and office
Using proper lifting techniques. The NOISH Lifting Equation helps teams determine weight limits for jobs, factoring in load size, lift height, lift frequency, and lift duration.
Taking routine breaks from sustained positions or repetitive movements.
Listening to the body when physical limits have been reached.
If an injury or irritation has developed, talk to a medical professional before symptoms worsen.
All safety considerations must be deliberated and understood by the entire team prior to commencing work– from ergonomics to proper task procedures. Talk to your supervisor if you feel a job’s tasks exceed your body’s limitations or those of someone on your team. After all, safety is the responsibility of the entire team.