Sprains, Strains... not automobiles
The leading injury type for both General and Construction Industries by far is strains, sprains and tears, or commonly referred to as soft tissue injuries. Soft tissue injuries accounted for 39% of all types of injuries. These injuries are the result of damage to the muscles, tendons, ligaments and/or nerves. Injuries to the back, shoulders, neck, arms, and hands are the most common body parts impacted.
Many times we only increase the injury when we continue to work while being hurt, which is a common behavior in our industry. Continuing to work while injured without proper treatment not only reduces productivity but can lead to disabling injuries that can create constant lifelong pain (such as arthritis, tendonitis, etc.) or can be so disabling that it ends a career early.
Common symptoms of soft tissue injuries are:
Tenderness and pain of joints and/or swelling
Loss of grip strength
Discomfort of arms, legs or hands
Numbness in wrist, hands or fingers
Typically, there are two categories of risk factors in the workplace that influence Soft Tissue Injuries, Ergonomic, and Individual.
Ergonomic Risk Factors Include:
Excessive Repetition: Many work tasks and cycles are repetitive in nature, and are frequently controlled by production targets and work processes.
Awkward Posture: Awkward postures place excessive force on joints and overload the muscles and tendons.
Excessive Force: Many work tasks require high force loads on the human body.
Other environmental factors: Slip, trip and fall hazards increase risk of a sudden/acute soft tissue injury.
Potential Solutions for Ergonomic Risk Factors include:
Engineering Controls: Reduction of awkward postures/positions, proper tools that limit vibrations to bones and joints.
Administrative Controls: Recognizing what jobs have the potential to create issues and rotate crews, planning regular breaks with stretching routines that target exposed muscles and joints.
Individual Risk Factors Include:
No recognition of early signs and symptoms: Many soft tissues injuries can develop over the course of time. At the first signs of excessive fatigue/discomfort, the worker has an opportunity to recognize the early signs and symptoms and proactively use recommended injury prevention tools and principles.
Poor work practices: Workers who use poor work practices, body mechanics and lifting techniques are introducing unnecessary risk factors that can contribute to strains and sprains.
Poor rest and recovery: Soft tissue injuries develop when fatigue outruns the workers recovery system.
Potential Solutions for Individual Risk Factors include:
Training and Education: Training specific to jobs, tools, and human performance as it relates to body/ergonomics. This training should be both in the classroom and individually on site as interactive coaching.
Intervention: Recognize potential issues early and provide corrective actions immediately.