Kent McGuire – OSU Ag Safety and Health Coordinator
The physical demands of spring work will soon be here. Due to the physical nature of agricultural tasks, there can be a tremendous amount of wear and tear on the body. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, sprain/strain injuries account for over 38 percent of all workplace injuries requiring days away from work. Sprain/Strain injuries are common during physically demanding tasks because your joints and muscles take the majority of the punishment. It is important to understand the difference between these injuries and consider how to prevent these injuries from occurring or even re-occurring over time.
Sprain: A sprain is a stretch or tear of a ligament (a band of connective tissues that joins the end of one bone with another). Sprain injuries can be caused by a trauma such as a fall, blow to the body that knocks a joint out of position, rupturing supporting ligaments, or a joint that is forcefully moved out of its typical range of motion. Locations at highest risk of a joint injury include; back, elbows, wrists, knees, and ankles.
Strain: A strain is a twist, pull, or tear of a muscle or tendon. It is a noncontact injury that results from overstretching or over-contraction. Symptoms of a strain include: muscle pain, muscle spasm and loss of function. Locations at highest risk of a strain injury include; calf muscle, hamstrings, muscles in the lower back and shoulders.
Some guidelines to reduce the risk of sprain/strain injuries include:
- Use proper lifting techniques when lifting.
- Avoid reaching, twisting or bending continuously when completing a task.
- Push items, rather than pull them.
- Reduce or remove any slip or trip hazards in the workspace.
- Use extra caution when walking across uneven or unstable surfaces.
- Minimize repetitive movements during daily tasks.
- Alternate work tasks to increase a variety of physical movements.
- Utilize stools and anti-fatigue matting at workstations for tasks with prolonged standing.
- When stepping off ladders or equipment, always look where you are placing your feet.
- Use material handling devices, power tools, or efficient work methods to minimize overexertion to joints and muscles.
- Use ergonomically designed tools and equipment.
- Allow your body to rest and recuperate, especially when completing physical tasks that are not a part of the normal workday.