Both employers and employees commonly underestimate the physical demands of everyday job duties that can lead to injury or incident. When organizations are lacking this understanding of job requirements and workers do not possess the physical capabilities required to perform the job, risk of injury increases. Resulting injuries can have far reaching effects on the employer, the employee, and the workforces as a whole.
UNDERSTANDING COMMON INJURIES
Injuries can occur under both acute and chronic conditions. This means that sudden trauma, movements or poor body mechanics can lead to injuries which manifest quickly, or may develop over time through smaller micro traumas which eventually lead to pain and debility.
For example, back injuries can be caused by sudden heavy loads causing damage, or by poor body mechanics such as twisting at the waist, reaching, overhead work, lifting and carrying objects with awkward shapes, working in odd or uncomfortable positions, etc.
They can also be brought on by fatiguing prolonged activity which lends itself to the adage “the straw that broke the camel’s back”. Therefore, due to the variety of opportunities individuals have to encourage injury, it’s not a surprise that 80% of North Americans will experience a back injury during their lifetime.
Soft tissue injuries can manifest in a variety of body parts – even though back injuries garner the most attention. Industry sees high rates of ankle, knee, shoulder and wrist injuries. These types of injury tend to be caused by poor physical condition, previous injury, overuse/cumulative trauma, or poor tool design.
It is important to remember that joints that are more mobile tend to sacrifice stability and strength for increases in range of motion. This is why we often hear of torn knee ligaments, shoulder rotator cuff strains and carpal tunnel of the wrist. Once injury has occurred it is not uncommon for re-injury to afflict the same previously injured area, due to laxity of the tendons and ligaments.
STRESS, A SIGNIFICANT RISK FACTOR
Mental stress has a significant effect on risk of injury. Stress activates muscles to reflexively tense up, making them more susceptible to strains and spasms. Psychosocial factors such as job satisfaction, low camaraderie and economic issues have been found just as significant as physical factors in the incidence of low back pain. Additionally, stress can lead to poor sleep habits and fatigue – both of which are risk factors for musculoskeletal injury.
Therefore, safety management systems which address physical stress of the job and the mental stress related to the occupation will provide a more robust approach to reducing musculoskeletal injuries in industrial workforces. Our 30-Day Mental Health Challenge can help jump start the discussion around stress in your workplace. Click here to learn more.
THE TRUE COST OF INJURIES
For the employer, a workplace injury can mean significant costs from absenteeism, replacement workers, training, health coverage, and more. In fact, the cost of recruiting and training replacement workers and the cumulative negative impact that unhealthy or injured employees have on productivity and employee morale far exceed the costs of absenteeism.
To protect against damaging incidents, employers can work with occupational health and safety services providers, like Horizon OHS, to conduct pre-employment medicals, job demands analysis, personal injury prevention plans, and more. By taking preventive measures when it comes to employee health and safety, employers can rest assured that they’ve hired the right people for each job, and that those individuals are set up for success in their duties.
Learn more about what Horizon OHS can do for your organization.