Every June, the National Safety Council targets this month as National Safety Month. Work place safety should be an ongoing effort of injury and illness prevention by employers and employees alike. The first step to lowering the risk of getting hurt at work begins with a healthy employee at home.
Adults usually need an average of six to eight hours of restful sleep each night. Commonly this can be promoted by maintaining a dark, quiet bedroom and minimizing caffeine. Weight maintenance is important, and can become more of a challenge as we age. Eating a healthy diet is recommended along with maintaining a regular exercise program, typically consisting of a balance of muscle strengthening and aerobic activities. Stress management is becoming an increasing concern to address our social pressures.
One of the most common work related injuries is the low back. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there were over 155,000 work-related back injuries in 2015. Some general lifting-safety tips include bending at the knees, not the waist. Keeping your feet shoulder width apart and a straight back with lifting may also be helpful – use your legs to lift. If an object is too heavy to nudge with your foot, get help in lifting. MedlinePlus is a resource from the U.S. National Library of Medicine that has additional suggestions under the search “lifting and bending the right way”.
Some employers require the use of personal protective equipment (PPE). Examples of PPE include earplugs or hearing protective devices, safety glasses or goggles, work gloves, hard hats and hard-toed shoes. When PPE is obliged, there will be guidelines for its use. The most common injuries that occur when PPE is required are when the employee fails to properly use the equipment. If you are compelled to use it, please use it correctly.
Work place injuries may also occur from sedentary activity. Cumulative trauma injuries, also known as repetitive motion disorder, may occur from repetitive low force motions. Some examples include carpal tunnel syndrome, bursitis, tendinitis, epicondylitis, tenosynovitis and trigger finger. Usual causes include excessive uninterrupted repetitions of an action or motion, unnatural or awkward motions such as twisting the arm or wrist, incorrect posture or muscle fatigue. Proper set up of your work station and equipment is necessary. Sitting or standing straight along with proper height adjustment of chair and desk are necessary. Keeping tools within easy reach of your workstation is important. Taking breaks and stretching while doing repetitive tasks may be helpful. Many larger employers may offer an “ergonomic assessment” of your work area upon request. Make the work station fit the employee rather than adapt the employee to an improper work station. A helpful guide can be found at https://www.ors.od.nih.gov/sr/dohs/Documents/ORS_Ergonomics_Poster_Rd5.pdf.
Some simple prevention can be helpful such as stretching before work. Taking stretch breaks during repetitive tasks may also be helpful. Even a short five-minute break during the work day may allow for better productivity as well as provide some stress relief. Many additional resources are available on line. Specifically, some examples provided by the National Institute of Health are available at https://www.ors.od.nih.gov/sr/dohs/HealthAndWellness/Ergonomics/Pages/exercises.aspx Certain employers may already have health resources available for the asking. Any employer would likely appreciate suggestions or recommendations you may have to improve safety at work, so please speak up!
Bradford Croft, DO
East Flagstaff Family Medicine, LTD