Use the information and resources below to prevent sprains and strains in your workplace.
Involve your employees when looking for solutions:
- They are the experts in their work. They know the most demanding tasks, and they probably already have some simple improvement ideas. They’ll also accept changes better if they participate in making them.
Find quick fixes to get momentum going:
- Don’t over-complicate fixes. A quick and simple solution, like rearranging a storage area to reduce lifting, or raising a counter-top to reduce bending can create enthusiasm by showing how effective and simple ergonomics can be.
Focus on effective solutions:
- Changes to work practices and equipment often can eliminate or substantially reduce injury risk. Training in proper work practices is important and should accompany any new equipment or procedures, but training alone isn’t very effective in reducing injuries.
Expect results, but be patient:
- Ergonomics tools and practices keep workers healthy and increase productivity, quality and employee morale. However, you shouldn't be discouraged if these results are not immediate. You should consider all of the benefits when calculating the return on investment, not just reduced claims costs.
You can quickly and easily fix most hazards that lead to sprain and strain injuries. Look at the tasks in your workplace and use the simple solutions below to make the work safer and easier.
1. Store it off the floor
Lifting from the floor doubles your risk of back injury compared to lifting at waist level.
2. Push, don't pull
Pushing lets you use your body weight and larger muscles to move a load.
3. Keep it close
Shorter reaches to tools, materials and supplies means less strain on your arms, shoulders and back.
4. Hands below head
Keeping your hands below your head reduces stress on your shoulders and neck.
5. Grip, don't pinch
Gripping with the whole hand uses stronger muscles than pinching with your fingers. This means less strain on your hands and fingers.
6. Keep wrists straight
You have more grip strength and you'll feel less strain on your hands and wrists.
7. Roll it
Use carts, hand trucks and conveyors instead of carrying items. Carrying is hard on your hands, arms and back, and can make a slip or trip more likely.
8. Work at waist height
Too much bending, kneeling and squatting puts strain on your back, knees and hips.
9. Keep a level head
Tipping, tilting or twisting your head to see your work places strain on your neck and shoulders.
10. Use low vibration hand tools
Using tools with high vibration reduces your hand strength and dexterity, and increases the chance of injury.
11. Change it up
Moving the same way over and over for a long time can lead to fatigue, mistakes and injury. Reduce how often and how long risky tasks are done.
12. Match work height to the task
Set your work a little below elbow height when you have to use more force. Set your work a little above elbow height when the task needs a light touch and a better view.
These guidelines, listed by industry, can by used in preventing sprains and strains:
- Ergonomics and Construction - The Smart Move
- Ergonomics Best Practices for the Construction Industry
- Simple Solutions Ergonomics for Construction Workers
- Simple Solutions for Home Building Workers
- Ergonomics in Action, A Guide to Best Practices for the Food-Processing Industry
- Guidelines for Meatpacking Plants
- Manual Material Handling in the Red Meat Industry
- Poultry Processing eTool
- Prevention of Musculoskeletal Injuries in Poultry Processing
- Prevención de lesions musculoesqueléticas en el procesamiento avícola
- An Ergonomics Guide for Kitchens in Healthcare
- An Ergonomics Guide for Hospital Laundries
- An Ergonomics Guide for Hospital Pharmacies
- Using Carts in Healthcare
- Guidelines for Nursing Homes
- Prevention of WMSDs in Dental Clinics
- Prevention of Work-Related Musculoskeletal Disorders in Sonography
- Safe Patient Handling
- Sit-To-Stand Devices - An option to transfer patients
- Laboratory Safety Ergonomics for the Prevention of Musculoskeletal Disorders
- NIEHS Health and Safety Guide to Laboratory Ergonomics
- Ergonomic Solutions for Retailers
- Guidelines for Retail Grocery Stores
- Manual Material Handling and Customer Service in Warehouse Superstores
- Reducing Manual Handling Risks in Carpet Retail
Transportation and Warehousing
The table below can help you choose an effective solution.
|Solution||Does it prevent injuries?|
|An ergonomics process to find and fix hazards||Yes. Learn more about the process here.|
|Mechanical lifting device (hoist, vacuum lift, and so on)||Yes.|
|Lift table to eliminate low lifts||Yes.|
|Safe lifting techniques training||No, but good technique can work along with other solutions. Learn how to make lifting safer here.|
|Job rotation||Probably not. Learn more about job rotation here.|
|Stretch and flex programs||Possibly.|
|Body mechanics training||No.|
|Workstation evaluations without employee involvement||No. But evaluations that involve employees can be effective.|
|Sit-stand workstations||Maybe. Training on how to use the workstations can help.|
|Training without other workplace improvements||Most of the time, no.|
|Putting equipment in place without training employees on how to use it||Most of the time, no. Find out why training needs to be part of your prevention process here.|
|Exoskeletons||Too soon to tell. Find out more about exoskeletons here.|
|Anti-fatigue mats||Maybe. They can help with comfort. Find out more about anti-fatigue mats here.|
|Knee pads||Sometimes. They help prevent bruises and scrapes, but may not prevent long-term knee injuries.|
|Anti-vibration gloves||Only in very limited cases. You can read more about anti-vibration gloves here.|
|Back belts||No. You can read more about back belts here.|