Basic Ergonomics: Soft Tissue Injury Prevention
Top Four Workplace Risk Factors
Workers can suffer soft tissue injuries over time, due to repetitive movement and overuse at work. Within all workplaces, there are numerous hazards and injury-inducing situations. Strains and sprains to the back, neck, wrist, shoulders, knees, and ankles are at the top of numerous workers' compensation cost leader boards.
Soft tissue injuries and musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) are those that affect the ligaments, tendons, muscles, nerves, and fascia tissues. These injuries happen to people everyday whether it is at work, at home, playing sports, or doing other recreational activities. The important point is that many of these injuries can be prevented with proper care of the body.
The human body works much like a crane that you would see on a construction site. Nerves in the body are like the operator that controls and sends messages to other parts of the structure. Connective tissues work like cables, connectors, and rigging in a crane. Ligaments connect bone to bone like the pins of a crane boom. Finally, tendons function like load cables by moving force from muscle to bone in the body.
Keeping your body in good physical condition will help to prevent injury at work. Stretching your muscles before performing a task can prepare muscles for activity. It will also increase flexibility, reduce fatigue, enhance coordination, and act as a form of stress relief. A good stretch routine often includes:
- Relax, breathe freely
- Hold each stretch for 30 sec.
- Pain- free stretching is the goal
- Stretch before & after work
Other ways to prevent soft tissue injury include wearing the proper footwear, maintaining good posture, and completing routine exercise. In addition to individual measures, workplace factors must also be considered. Workplace risk factors include:
1. Excessive Force
Many work tasks require high force loads on the human body. Muscle effort increases in response to high force requirements, increasing associated fatigue which can lead to injury.
2. Excessive Repetition
Many work tasks and cycles are repetitive in nature and are frequently controlled by hourly or daily production targets and work processes. High task repetition, when combined with other risks factors such high force and/or awkward postures, can contribute to the formation of soft tissue injury. A job is considered highly repetitive if the cycle time is 30 seconds or less.
3. Awkward Position
Awkward postures place excessive force on joints and overload the muscles and tendons around the affected joint. Joints of the body are most efficient when they operate closest to the mid-range motion of the joint. Risk of soft tissue injury is increased when joints are worked outside of this mid-range repetitively or for sustained periods of time without adequate recovery time.
4. Other Environmental Factors
Slip, trip and fall hazards due to poor housekeeping and general obstructions greatly increase the risk of a soft tissue injury.
It is important to remember that work-related soft tissue injuries and musculoskeletal disorders can be prevented. Ergonomics, fitting a job to a person, helps lessen muscle fatigue, increases productivity and reduces the number and severity of work-related injuries.
Questions? Contact your Assurance representative for more information.
- Reach for Safety: Workplace Stretches for Employees
- Safety E-Book
- Flick of the Wrist: Cubicle Exercises
- How to Address Unsafe Behavior Through Safety Training
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