Overexertion in the workplace is related to certain activities and/or motions, with a common one being repetitive movements. This can lead to repetitive stress injuries, such as carpal tunnel syndrome, bursitis, tendonitis, trigger finger and more. However, there are things that can be done to help prevent these types of injuries.
Repetitive Motions in the Workplace
In the workplace, repetitive motions involve tasks where you are doing the same motion over and over again, such as:
- repeated movement of the hand, arm or shoulder
- bending at the wrist
- applying force with the hand or arm
- maintaining an abnormal posture for an extended period of time
- lifting heavy objects
Preventing Repetitive Stress Injuries
For jobs that entail sitting at a desk, good posture is key to avoiding unnecessary stress on the muscles.
- Make sure you have an ergonomic workstation, one that promotes good posture.
- Sit in a chair that gives support to your lower back. Feet should be kept flat on the floor or on a footrest. Your hands, wrists and forearms should be aligned, and wrists supported when typing.
- Put the computer monitor about an arm’s length away with the screen at eye level so you’re looking straight ahead.
- Use a headset when on the phone to avoid straining your neck, shoulders, and arms.
For jobs outside the office and desk environment, posture and ergonomics are still important, but also look at how jobs are done and whether improvements can be made.
- Determine if the work can be done differently to reduce risk factors by using tools such as platforms, lifts, forklifts, hoists, carts, dollies.
- Plan and organize the work so that materials are delivered close to where they are needed, and proper equipment is at the job site.
- Tools used for a job should fit the job being done, fit the workspace available, fit your hand, and can be used in a comfortable work position. For instance, use an extension pole on cleaning tools to avoid straining the arms.
- Use personal protective equipment that fit the need of the job, such as shoulder pads, knee pads, vibration reducing gloves.
- When selecting power tools, make sure they have a long trigger, low vibration and noise levels and are heavy enough to do the job but not make you have to strain.
And, in general:
- When possible, work at waist level and minimize bending, reaching, or twisting.
- Exercise regularly. This will help build muscle strength. Focus on strengthening the back and core muscles.
- Take frequent exercise breaks: stretch or walk around, do shoulder stretches while at the desk, wiggle fingers and flex wrists.
- Always lift with the knees while keeping the load close to the body. When possible, use dollies or carts.
- Rotate tasks so you’re not doing the same thing for hours at a time.
Jobs Where Repetitive Stress Injuries Occur
Examples of occupations where workers may be at risk for repetitive motion injuries (also known as repetitive strain injuries and repetitive stress injuries).
- animal husbandry
- bus drivers
- computer and office work
- delivery drivers
- dental hygienists
- electrical work
- stocking or packing
- assembly line workers