Safety tip: how to avoid sprains and strains

Aug 27, 2020
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Written by Washington Retail
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Overexertion injuries generally fall into two categories – sprains (stretching or tearing ligaments) and strains (stretching or tearing tendons or muscles). These types of injuries have been associated with lifting, repeated bending at the waist with twisting, long term bending at the waist, pushing/pulling, carrying, reaching and long-term poor posture (either sitting or standing).

L&I has helped us with some specific data for Washington retailers:

  • One out of every four injuries in retail is from overexertion.
  • The average cost per overexertion claim is a little over $11,500.
  • Overexertion claims represent about 37% of workers’ comp costs in retail.
  • Lifting is the most frequently mentioned cause of overexertion, resulting in at least half of all injuries. Carrying was second, followed closely by pushing and pulling.
  • Boxes were the most frequent source of injury. Of the more specific items listed, ‘automotive parts’ was the most common.
  • The back was clearly the most frequently injured part of the body. Shoulder injuries were a distant second.

To prevent overexertion:

  • Stretch and/or warm up before heavy lifting or strenuous activity
  • Use a hand truck and carts as much as possible
  • Lift with your legs bent and objects held close to your body
  • Avoid bending, overreaching and twisting when lifting
  • For those unusual sized items, ask a co-worker for help when lifting

Proper posture, body mechanics and ergonomics can lessen overexertion injuries. Because it is important that the demands of the job match the capabilities of the worker, extra training may be required to perform a job safely.

For additional information:

  • RS SafetyTV has several videos on lifting and back safety
  • RS Safety Library – Ergonomics section – Reducing Awkward Postures

WR employs Rick Means as Director of Safety & Education who is available to help members draw up safety plans and suggest topics for safety meetings. Contact him at 360.200.6454 or rmeans@waretailservices.com