We hear a lot about “overexertion” as it relates to sports or outdoor activities carried out in high temperatures.
To be sure, those things are a risk – but they aren’t the only risk. Our Winston-Salem workers’ compensation attorneys know that job-related overexertion is the No. 3 cause of work injuries in the U.S., accounting for some 3.3 million hospital trips each year, according to the Occupational Safety & Health Administration.
In an effort to combat this, the National Safety Council has launched an awareness campaign to reduce some of the more common overexertion risk factors.
We know that overexertion affects every individual differently because even those carrying out the same tasks might have a different tolerance threshold. We must also understand that over time, even an individual’s threshold is going to shift. Carrying out certain kinds of physical labor can be a lot tougher at 55 than 25.
That said, the most common overexertion injuries involve some type of sprain, particularly to the lower back. In most cases, these injuries are the result of excessive physical efforts in the form of lifting, lowering, carrying, holding, pushing, pulling and turning.
While it is up to your employer to ensure you are safe and not taking on more work than you can physically handle, it’s also up to you to voice concerns when you are concerned you may be taking on too much.
OSHA has created a lift operations calculator to help workers determine how much lifting is too much lifting. Let’s say you are lifting from a beginning position of knee to waist from 12 inches away. If you do six to seven of these lifts for two hours or more per day, your lifts shouldn’t be more than 10 pounds if you are twisting less than 45 degrees with each lift and should be a maximum of 8.5 pounds if you are twisting more than 45 degrees at a time.
If that same amount of lifting is occurring at an above-the-shoulder angle, the weight should be no more than 7.5 pounds if you are twisting less than 45 degrees with each lift or a maximum of 6.4 pounds if you are twisting more than 45 degrees at a time.
Many workers, particularly those in construction and perhaps in certain stock retail positions, would likely find themselves over this threshold.
Lifting isn’t the only problem. The NCS reports that sitting in an awkward position can put a great deal of stress on the wrong part of your body. We don’t think of sitting as being a source of overexertion, but it absolutely can be if you aren’t seated properly. Same goes for any type of repetitive motion.
Recognizing when you may have reached your limit is important. Insist on taking a break if you experience any of the following:
- Painful or sore muscles;
- High blood pressure;
- Sweating profusely or feeling overall very hot;
- A heartbeat that flutters;
- Low abdominal pain.
Alternatively, if you start to experience (or see a co-worker experiencing) shortness of breath, severe headaches, blue lips or fingers and a marked lack of coordination, stop working immediately and call 911.
If you have been injured at work in North Carolina, contact the Lee Law Offices at 800-887-1965.
NSC Launches Campaign to Prevent Overexertion Injuries, June 6, 2011, Press Release, Occupational Health & Safety Adminis tion
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