Ergonomics & Conditioning – Avoiding Overexertion

Lifting correctly

Tips to Avoid Injury

Sources of Injuries

Many workplace injuries are a result of overexertion caused by awkward position, repetition, lifting, pulling or pushing objects and not thinking through the task before starting. Overexertion is spraining or straining a tendon or a muscle. It and occurs when the amount of work attempted exceeds the limits of the body parts doing the work.

People with a pre-existing condition, limited mobility, overweight, joint and muscle issues or aging limitations are more prone to overexertion injuries. In some cases, individuals will overuse one body part to compensate for the limitation of another body part. Use 3-points of contact to enter and exit trucks and equipment.

Overexertion injury is likely to occur in four ways.

  1. High force demands: This can happen when lifting, pushing, pulling, carrying, gripping, and using tools.
  2. Awkward or stationary posture: This can occur when bending, prolonged sitting, twisting, reaching, and kneeling.
  3. Repetitive movements or actions: Doing the same motion repeatedly without taking small rest breaks in between.
  4. All other overexertion hazards: This includes slips/falls, contact stress, hand-arm-body vibration (driving/operating), hand tools, and going between and working in cold temperatures or hot environments (in and out of trucks and equipment or prolonged exposure to extreme temperatures.


Reducing risk of injury at work

The best way to prevent an overexertion injury is to work through the task in your head to figure out the best way to perform the work with the least amount of energy and then follow through with the plan by taking necessary precautions. A major precaution includes using proper lifting techniques and planning your route.

  • Get a good grip: Grasp the load firmly. Use gloves if they allow for a better grip.
  • Get a good footing: Center your body weight and use good balance. Tie your shoes.
  • Keep it close: Grasp the load firmly and lift towards the belt buckle. Hold the load close to the body to avoid putting pressure on the back.
  • Lift smoothly: Raise, carry, and lower the load smoothly. Never jerk a load. Never twist with a load in your arms. Push against using your legs and body weight.
  • Adjust your seat, mirrors and body position to be most comfortable and avoid awkward reaching and viewing.
  • Avoidance: Know your limits and accept that you need help or should not carry out the task if you are not fit.

Reducing Your Risk

Some other guidelines to reduce the risks of overexertion injuries:

  • Ask for help, use material handling devices, carts, or hand-trucks to move heavy items when moving heavy objects.
  • Plan a route when moving items. The route should be free from slip or trip hazards.
  • Use tools and gloves that are in good repair and fit.
  • Reduce your total exposure to vibration. Alternate w/ co-worker to avoid repetitive stress.
  • Establish a suitable working height for the type of work being done. Do not overreach.
  • Utilize cushions and anti-fatigue pads in vehicles for tasks with prolonged driving.
  • Place items used often between waist & shoulder height. Less frequently used on top shelf.
  • Use Stretch and Flex to reduce stress. Re-adjust your driving position throughout the day.
  • Use kneepads while kneeling or padded gloves when lifting to reduce contact stress over long periods of time.
  • Know your limits and respect them. Listen to your body when it tells you to stop.
Think through your task to look for and address potential ergonomic hazards before you start.

Leave a Comment