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3 Practical Ways to Reduce Workplace Strains and Sprains

20 July 2023

Did you know that strains and sprains are a leading cause of workplace injury?

While it's commonly believed that strains and sprains are a concern for the manufacturing sector, that's not true. Strains and sprains are common concerns associated with workplaces regardless of the sector.

Fortunately, it is one of the preventable workplace concerns.

In what follows, we look at some of the practical ways to reduce workplace strains and sprains. But before we get into the details, let's take an insight into some of the causes of strains and sprains so you can better understand the ways to reduce this major workplace problem.

What Causes Sprains and Strains at Workplace?

A sprain is an injury to the ligament, whereas a strain is considered an injury to the muscle or a tendon. Both these concerns may happen suddenly or develop over time, depending upon what caused the concern.

The typical causes of strains and sprains at the workplace fall into the following two categories;

Ergonomic Risk Factors, and

Individual Risk Factors.

Let's look at the following two categories.

Ergonomic Risk Factors

Ergonomic risk factors refer to the causes of strains and sprains that are the result of poor workplace ergonomics. Some of the ergonomic risk factors at workplaces in different sectors include the following.

Excessive Force

Several tasks at the workplace require the use of force. When there is a much higher use of force than what the body can handle, there's an increased risk of fatigue and strains, and sprains that could lead to musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs).

Excessive Repetition

Besides the extensive and inappropriate use of force, excessive repetition of tasks is also considered an ergonomic risk factor contributing to increased risk of strains and sprains.

Many tasks are repetitive, such as working on an assembly line or using a keyboard or mouse. When combined with other ergonomic and individual risk factors, these highly repetitive tasks can contribute to a much higher risk of strains and sprains.

Awkward Posture Due to Workplace Layout

Last on the list of ergonomic risk factors that lead to strains and sprains is the workplace layout which leads to awkward posture. When your workplace design doesn't support ergonomic body posture, it increases the risk of muscles, tendons, and joints working outside their range of motion, which contributes to an increased risk of strains and sprains.

Individual Risk Factors

Individual risk factors refer to the causes of strains and sprains resulting from poor personal and work habits like slouching over the screen or poor lifestyle practices such as unhealthy diet and a sedentary lifestyle.

Let's look at some of the individual risks of factors that contribute to increasing the risk of strains and sprains.

Poor Working Habits

Many employees adopt poor working practices that increase their risk of developing strains and sprains. Poor lifting techniques, body mechanics, and sitting posture put unnecessary stress on the body, causing increased fatigue and reduced ability of the body to recover from strains and sprains.

Poor Lifestyle

Employees who adopt and stick to poor lifestyle habits like excessive drinking, smoking, consuming an unhealthy diet, and following a sedentary lifestyle are more prone to strains and sprains. Moreover, apart from the higher risk of strains and sprains, they are also at risk of developing chronic health conditions that may likely decrease their life span and negatively impact their quality of life.

No Consideration for Early Signs and Symptoms of Strains and Sprains

Many employees fail to recognize the early signs and symptoms of strains and sprains. They continue to ignore the first signs of strain, which are usually fatigue and discomfort. Not recognizing early signs can lead to the worsening of the condition, which, over time, becomes more painful and takes longer to recover.

Now that you have a detailed insight into what causes strains and sprains at the workplace, let's look at some of the ways to reduce this common workplace concern that can have a debilitating impact on employees' quality of life.

3 Ways to Reduce Workplace Strain & Sprain

Strains and sprains related to workplace practices like lifting and handling material can significantly contribute to increasing your risk of injuries.

While completely eliminating all ergonomic and individual risk factors isn't possible, there are a few factors that contribute to the potential for injury that can be controlled. Individual factors like poor lifestyle and posture that contribute to strains and sprains can be handled by individuals to reduce the risk of workplace strains and sprains. Moreover, ergonomic risk factors like workplace design and layout, improper material handling, and excessive repetition can be addressed by improving workplace layout and providing adequate training to employees.

Here are a few practical ways to reduce the risk of workplace strains and sprains.

#1. Improving Workplace Layout

One of the best ways to reduce the risk of workplace strains and sprains is to design a workspace that reduces ergonomic risk factors.

Some of the factors to consider to improve workplace layout include.

Adjusting the Height at Which Work is Performed

Whether the job requires workers to sit or stand, it’s important that the height is appropriately adjusted so workers can stand or sit upright without the need for having to lean forward.

For this purpose, many employers in an office-based setting are now invested in height-adjustable standing desks that allow employees to adjust their sitting and standing height at their convenience. While there is a wide range of height-adjustable standing desks available on the market, one of the most practical investments for office-based workplaces is the Premium Standing Desk (E7). Learn more about this amazing FlexiSpot product here.

For workplaces that have seated workstations, employers need to ensure that they invest in appropriate ergonomic office chairs which are fully adjustable. Investment in appropriate ergonomic office chairs will allow users to maintain a convenient sitting posture that can reduce the risk of strains and sprains.

#2. Provide Training for Proper Lifting Techniques

In industries that require handling and lifting weight, it is critical for employees to learn how to properly lift weight as it serves as one of the best preventive measures to reduce the risk of workplace strains and sprains.

It's critical that adequate training is provided at an organizational level, so all employees learn the proper weightlifting technique and control the risk of injury.

Some of the steps for proper lifting and material handling that should be a part of the training include

Significance of appropriate warming up of muscles and use of simple stretching exercises before trying out lifting tasks,

Importance of standing close to the load, so there is minimal pressure on the spine,

Knowing that bending knees while keeping the upper body upright is critical for supporting your spine while lifting weights,

Learning the significance of gripping appropriately before lifting any load, and

Adequate understanding of how to unload so you avoid the risk of injuring your hands and wrists and

Appropriate use of mechanical aids to limit the amount of manual material handling where possible.

#3. Provide Wellness Support to Lower Individual Risk Factors to Reduce Workplace Strains and Sprains

It's critical for organizations to provide wellness support to all employees regardless of the industry and nature of their job.

By incorporating wellness support at an organizational level, you can enable your employees to be healthier. Moreover, you can encourage them to make healthy lifestyle choices and develop good eating and sleeping habits which will promote employees' overall wellness while reducing their risk of workplace injuries.

Some of the wellness support programs that you can try out at an organizational level include

Health risk screenings,

Stress and weight reduction programs, and

Nutrition and fitness education.

Key Takeaways

Sprains and strains in the workplace are quite common. They can be a result of a sudden or repetitive movement that can damage the muscle, tendon, or ligament. While it seems like a trivial health concern, it can significantly impact your productivity and your quality of life.

Therefore, it's important that regardless of your work setting, you should be aware of all the ergonomic and personal risk factors that can lead to strains and sprains. Moreover, you should also incorporate measures at a personal and organizational level to address the causes of strains and sprains and reduce their risk.

Fostering a culture of prevention through incorporating wellness programs can help reduce risk factors and is effectively the best way to achieve organizational success.