Did you know, the average person spends approximately a third of their lives at work (1)? With that kind of time commitment, it’s no wonder why a person’s job has a significant impact on their wellbeing, especially on their physical health.
Every industry comes with its own set of risk factors – manual jobs may require lifting, pushing, and pulling heavy goods and others often include bending, reaching, completing repetitive tasks, and maintaining uncomfortable positions. Even sedentary workers who spend most of their time sitting in the same position are at risk of work-related injury or musculoskeletal disorders.
Workplace injuries are a serious challenge for employees and businesses alike. According to the US Bureau of Labor and Statistics, one out of every five work-related illnesses or injuries are related to the back (2). Every year, musculoskeletal disorders result in almost 70 million visits to physician offices and 130 million outpatient, hospital, and emergency room visits. Injuries caused by overexertion through activities such as pushing, lifting, pulling, holding, or throwing an object costs employers $13.4 billion every year in workers’ compensation costs, and even more in lost productivity and missed workdays (3).
The best way to address work-related musculoskeletal disorders and injuries is to prevent them from happening in the first place. One way many companies combat workplace injuries is by incorporating ergonomics into their operations. Ergonomics is the practice of fitting a workplace environment and job to a person, reducing stress and muscle fatigue, decreasing the risk of injury, and increasing productivity.
Implementing Ergonomics in Your Workplace
Employers and employees can each play a role in integrating ergonomics into their workday and workspace. Here are some tips to get you started.
Create a partnership. Since workplace injuries can negatively impact an entire team or company, it is everyone’s responsibility to help create an environment that supports employee health. Management should emphasize the importance of musculoskeletal health, and staff members should provide input on how their workspaces and tasks can improve.
Understand the risks. The most common risks for workplace back injuries include poor physical condition and posture, improper lifting, and incorrect body mechanics.
Establish an ergonomic workspace. Select a chair that provides lumbar support and is adjustable – your feet should be able to be flat on the floor and your elbows should sit near your body on armrests. Keep the space under your desk clutter free so you have ample room for your legs and feet. Make sure your desk height, keyboard, and mouse are positioned so your arms can reach comfortably straight out from your body and your wrists are supported. Place your monitor at a height you can see it while keeping your head straight. Store items you use frequently in easy reach.
Focus on your strength and posture. Incorporating strength training into your exercise routine can support your overall spine health and help to safeguard against injury. Maintaining good posture means your chin should be parallel to the ground, your shoulders should be back, and your spine should maintain its natural curve.
Get moving. Staying in one position for a long time is detrimental to your spine health. Look for opportunities to take short walks, stretch, and shift your position.
Use proper techniques. Before performing any physically demanding tasks, it is important to stretch and warm up your muscles to prevent injury. Pushing is better for your back than pulling a load. When lifting, be sure to plant your feet firmly, bend at your knees (not your waist), engage your stomach muscles to support your spine, and lift using your leg muscles instead of your back.
Ask for help. Lifting materials that are heavier than one third to one half of your body weight dramatically increases your risk of injury. If you must lift or push something heavier, ask for help and/or utilize supportive equipment. If you struggle with balance, ask for assistance when you must reach or climb.
Listen to your body. Discomfort or pain indicates that something is wrong. If you are hurt at work, it’s critical to inform your manager and seek medical help as soon as possible. Continuing to work in pain will likely prolong and increase your suffering and put you at risk for further and/or long-term injury.
When it comes to workplace spine injuries, the best offense is good defense. In addition to following these tips, it is also essential to enlist experienced professionals to help your spine health be the best it can be. At Englewood Spine Associates, we offer expert spine advice and care in north Jersey. Our highest priority is the satisfaction of our patients, helping them to live life without pain. If we can assist you in feeling better, please contact us today.