When Too Much is Too Bad
 July 11, 2011

Overexertion is frequently the cause of what are the most painful and disabling work related injuries. But, surprisingly a good number of overexertion injuries can be easily avoided. Loss prevention programs should include avoiding overexertion injuries as part of the safety strategy.

So, why should employers care?

Consider that:

  • A recent study revealed that overexertion causes (such as excessive lifting, pushing, pulling, bending, overhead reaching, etc.) result in the greatest number of lost time injuries.
  • Overexertion injuries are almost always entirely preventable.
  • Loss prevention for overexertion injuries is not costly and proper training oftentimes eliminates the exposures that lead to overexertion injuries.

Employers should make training their workers on the dangers of overexertion and ways to prevent it a high priority. A good place to start is by reminding employees that it is particularly important to avoid overexertion if there is a history of heart disease in their family or if they are advancing in age, overweight, or unaccustomed to prolonged physical activity. Remember, you take the injured worker as they are. This means if they have a pre-existing condition or a pre-disposition to injury, this is not a bar to them receiving workers’ compensation benefits if this condition is aggravated by their work. You must return them to pre-injury status, which can involve considerable medical treatment and periods of disability.

A second area to focus your training is on the "don’ts". Injuries arising out of these unsafe acts can result in days, weeks, or even a lifetime of physical harm. Provide your employees with a few examples of overexertion like:

  • Using incorrect lifting techniques - when moving or lifting heavy objects, improper lifting almost always results in a back pain and perhaps a serious back injury.
  • Trying to do too much – by trying to lift, carry or move too much by themselves when they should have asked for help can produce significant injuries.
  • Avoiding that extra trip – instead of making two trips the employee adds an extra package or box to an already full load and lifts more than they are capable of lifting or carrying safely.
  • Overextending their reach – this awkward position actually limits their body leverage and reduces their safe lifting capacity.

Do employees want to hurt themselves? I don’t think so and oftentimes their motivations are for the good of the company, but have adverse consequences. Employee behavior (how they approach work) is usually motivated by:

  • Wanting to work faster to save time
  • Not wanting to appear weak
  • Not wanting to bother co-workers by asking for help

Follow the Three Cs

Communicate, Care, Consistently. Emphasize that refusing to get help could prove to be a painful mistake and you’re concerned for their safety. If failing to get help results in an overexertion injury, time has not necessarily been saved and productivity will be compromised. Encourage employees to work smartly and safely, which means not only following safe work practices, such as lifting correctly, but also knowing one's own limitations and when it is sensible to ask for help.

Establish an atmosphere of cooperation, Encourage co-workers to always be ready and willing to give help when they are asked for assistance. By removing any reluctance to help from a managerial standpoint, employees won’t feel the need to hesitate to seek help from co-workers.

Eliminate the mantra of "no pain, no gain". The medical community now believes that ignoring pain, and continuing to do whatever is causing it, is neither smart nor healthy. Work related injuries produce no "gain" for the employer or the employee. The only "gain" in that tired saying is more pain for your workers and perhaps actual damage to their bodies.

Consider a new mantra, "Think safe, work safe, be safe". In the end you’ll have a more motivated employee base and more productive work environment.

For more information on this topic contact CMTA at wcgroup@cmta.net.


Latest Articles
CompCheck Newsletter