This is a guest post by Molly Fostek, MS,PT, CMTPT, Director Work Performance Services South Hampton Roads.
Staying injury-free in the workplace can be a challenge. Some of us get sucked into our computers and sit in a chair for hours on end trying to get our work done. Others of us work in environments that are labor intensive, where quick turnaround is expected, causing us to move as rapidly as we can. With these challenges, how can we stay healthy and free from pain?
Below are some tips for you and your employees. Sharing these can help your employee best manage their work while staying productive and healthy.
The first step is prevention. First and foremost you must take personal responsibility for your health. Exercise regularly. Include cardio, strengthening and stretching into your program. Just as you stay in shape to support your daily life activities, you must also prepare your body for the rigors of your job.
Second, be aware of your work environment. Move obstacles, comply with safety rules, and be responsible for your choice in work posture and technique. Build in frequent movement variety into the workday. Staying in one position all day can lead to overuse and fatigue. You are built to move.
Third, understand safe human movement and proper lifting techniques. When lifting, be sure to lighten the load as much as possible. Keep the load in front of you and close to your body. Keep a neutral work posture and avoid reaching out of a “safety zone” such as twisted or overhead. Slow your movements down so they are controlled and balanced with your core activated. Lifting heavier loads should involve a hip dominant movement. Identify any awkward positions or postures that may place additional stress or strain on joints and muscles and correct it.
Fourth, as an employer, match the worker with the job to maximize safe functional performance. There should be a match between efficient quality human motion with one’s functional ability and the demands of the work.
Lastly, perform job and work recovery strategies. Warm up and stretch prior to frequent material handling. If the job requires a lot of repetitions in the same movement pattern make sure there is a recovery stretch. This will allow the muscles and joints to have a micro break to decrease time under tension. If you sit then stand, if you bend then straighten, if you are flexed, extend.
Even with employing all these strategies, injuries may still happen. Address these as soon as possible to improve recovery time. Limited rest and early exercise are often the key to early return to normal life.