Preventing Overexertion Injuries

Kent McGuire – OSU Ag Safety and Health Coordinator

With spring approaching, it is time to start preparing for planting season and those spring work activities. As warmer weather increases so does the risk of an overexertion injury because of work practices that the body is not used to.  Overexertion is an injury risk faced by many in the agricultural industry because of labor - intensive tasks and specific work practices over a long period of time. Overexertion is a major cause of sprain /strain injuries and inflammation of joints and ligaments that results from excessive physical effort. According to the National Safety Council, overexertion is the third leading cause of unintentional injuries, accounting for about 3.3 million emergency room visits, annually. There are several causes of overexertion including:

Fatigue: Burning the candle at both ends is unsustainable and many times less efficient when completing tasks over a long period of time. Sleep or rest is essential to allow the mind and body to heal and recharge after a strenuous workday.

Force: Force-related hazards can be present when lifting, pushing, pulling, carrying, gripping, using tools.

Awkward or static postures: Posture-related hazards can be present when bending, twisting, reaching, and kneeling.

Repetitive movements/actions: Repetition-related hazards can be present when doing the same thing over and over again, with little time for rest.

Rapid movements and unanticipated muscle loading: Slipping, rushing or reacting to the sudden movement of a load, activates muscles quickly and can result in strains and sprains because it does not allow the use of supporting muscle groups.

Other overexertion injury hazards include contact stress, hand-arm vibration, whole-body vibration, impacts with hands/knees, and working in extreme hot or cold environments.

Some guidelines to reduce the risks of overexertion injuries include:

- Use proper lifting techniques when lifting heavy objects.
- Ask for help when moving heavy objects.
- Use material handling devices, carts, or hand-trucks to move heavy items.
- Avoid twisting or bending when you lift or set down your load.
- Push items, rather than pull them.
- Plan a route when moving items, free from slip or trip hazards.
- Avoid the need for “catching” loads or using the body to stop the movement of loads.
- Use the right tool for the job. Using the wrong tool or a dull tool can lead to using excessive force to operate the tool.
- Use tools with easy to use handles or grips and have vibration-reducing features.
- Reduce total exposure to vibration by alternating between tasks that use vibrating power tools or equipment.
- Use ergonomic workspaces. This will ensure that you use materials and tools in a way that minimizes stress on your body as you work.
- Establish a suitable working height depending on the type of work being done.
- Utilize stools and anti-fatigue matting at workstations for tasks with prolonged standing.
- Place materials used often at appropriate storage heights (18” – 54”) and less frequently used materials in other locations.
- Utilize different tasks to a job to increase a variety of physical movements, in an effort to prevent repetitive motion injuries.
- Use kneepads while kneeling or padded gloves when lifting to reduce contact stress over long periods of time.
- Minimize slip / trip hazards in the workplace
- Know and respect your body’s limits. This is a key to avoiding overexertion injuries while working.


For more information about the OSU Ag Safety visit or contact Kent McGuire, OSU Agricultural Safety & Health, at or 614-292-0588.