Avoiding Injuries Caused by Repetitive Work
According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), repetitive strain injuries are the nations most common and costly occupational health problem, affecting hundreds of thousands of American workers and costing more than $20 billion a year in workers’ compensation payouts. Repetitive work involves manual activities that require constant repetition of similar movements. Typical examples of repetitive work include:
- Assembling, packing, wrapping, inspecting
- Data entry, bookkeeping
- Sewing, textile, transacting funds (cashiers, bank tellers)
- Welding, cutting, chopping
- Electrical and electronic equipment assembling
- Cleaning, janitorial
Injuries that occur typically affect muscles, tendons and other soft tissues, and can cause numbness, tingling and loss of muscle strength. The causes of repetitive motion injuries are:
- Repetitiveness — Use of the same muscles and joints over and over again to perform a repetitive task.
- Force — Excessive force overloading muscles and tendons.
- Position — Awkward posture for a long period of time.
Since small changes in body position can be very effective when trying to reduce strain, it is usually the most effective way to reduce repetitive motion injuries. Position changes can be made by using different tools, adjusting work-table height or by simply making workers more aware of the ideal body positioning. Below are some tips for helping employees avoid repetitive work strains:
- Provide adjustable work stations whenever possible.
- Ensure the work station’s controls, displays and materials are positioned in front of the worker to avoid twisting and over-reaching.
- Ensure hand tools are designed to allow the hand to be in a natural position, not bent or twisted.
- Frequently used hand tools can be suspended to reduce the weight supported by the worker.
- Review work speeds arising from quotas or tallies to ensure that the rate is realistic. Stressful postures and movements performed rapidly significantly increase the risk of muscle and tendon damage.
- Design jobs to include a variety of activities to reduce stress and fatigue, or consider job rotation.
- Allow for regular breaks.
- Provide job training for all employees to ensure workers know how to do their job safely.
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