Many people do work which requires them to perform the same body motions for extended periods of time such as typing at a keyboard. Janitors and cleaners, in addition to many others, perform repetitive tasks. This article gives a few tips to reduce your risk of injuries from these kinds of movements.
Dave Lucas, CIC
According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), repetitive strain injuries are the nation’s most common and costly occupational health problem, affecting hundreds of thousands of American workers and costing more than $20 billion a year in workers’ compensation payouts. Repetitive work involves manual activities that require constant repetition of similar movements. Injuries that occur typically affect muscles, tendons and other soft tissues, and can cause numbness, tingling and loss of muscle strength. Typical examples of repetitive work include:
- Assembling, packing, wrapping, inspection
- Administrative assistants, data entry, office clerks, bookkeepers
- Cashiers, bank tellers, textile sewing operators
- Welders and cutters
- Electrical and electronic equipment assemblers
- Janitors and cleaners
There are three factors to consider when assessing the risk of repetitive injuries:
- Repetitiveness – How frequently are parts handled or body movements performed?
- Force – How heavy are the products, or how much pressure is applied during the work process?
- Position – What is the body position while performing the required tasks?
Since small changes in body position can be very effective when trying to reduce strain, it is usually the most effective way to reduce repetitive motion injuries. Position changes can be made by using different tools, adjusting work-table height or by simply making workers more aware of the ideal body positioning. Below are some tips for helping employees avoid repetitive work strains:
- Provide adjustable work stations whenever possible.
- Ensure the work station’s controls, displays and materials are positioned in front of the worker to avoid twisting and over-reaching.
- Ensure hand tools are designed to allow the hand to be in a natural position, not bent or twisted.
- Frequently used hand tools can be suspended to reduce the weight supported by the worker.
- Review work speeds arising from quotas or tallies to ensure that the rate is realistic. Stressful postures and movements performed rapidly significantly increase the risk of muscle and tendon damage.
- Design jobs to include a variety of activities to reduce stress and fatigue, or consider job rotation.
- Allow for regular breaks.
- Provide job training for all employees to ensure workers know how to do their job safely.
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