Whether you work in an office or a warehouse, preparing your body for work, making sure you wear appropriate gear and individualizing your work station can help to minimize your chances of injury.
In 2017 the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board reported roughly 200,000 injury claims from employees employed in Ontario. Of those claims 44% involved muscle and joint injuries caused by overuse. Slip and falls were also another common cause for injury. Whether you work in an office or a warehouse, preparing your body for work, making sure you wear appropriate gear and individualizing your work station can help to minimize your chances of injury.
Here are the most common injuries to occur in the workplace and how you can reduce your chances of getting hurt at work.
Lower Back Injuries
According to the WSIB, the lower back is the most commonly injured area reported by employees. Common causes of lower back injuries include improper lifting and repetitive bending while at work. To avoid these types of injuries proper mechanics during lifting and bending tasks are essential. Here are some tips to protect your back:
- Do not bend at the waist when attempting to lift items from a lower surface. First hinge at the hips than squat using your legs.
- Keep your back in a straightened position, do not round your back when lifting or bending.
- Use both hands when picking up items and make sure to keep the items close to your body and while avoiding any twisting motions.
Sprains and Fractures
These injuries are usually the result of slips and falls which after overexertion injuries are the second most common injury reported by employees in Ontario. Common causes of slips and falls include wet/slippery surfaces and tripping over obstacles (electrical cords, loose carpet, open drawers etc.). Luckily, these injuries can be avoidable if you consider the following:
- Ensure the proper footwear based on your work environment. If floor surfaces tend to get wet with water, oil or soap wear shoes that are slip resistant. Many slips and falls occur to and from work, in work parking lots or on sidewalks. Consider wearing more supportive footwear when commuting and changing into indoor shoes once in the office.
- Look before you walk. Ensure walkways are clear, clean up any spills, close drawers after use and report any loose carpeting, excessive cords.
- Do not stretch to reach or grab for items while seated. Get up instead as this will provide more support.
- Use a proper stepladder, not a chair or box, when reaching overhead.
Repetitive Strain or Overuse Injuries
Performing the same tasks every day for hours a day can lead to fatigue and over exertion which ultimately puts your body at risk for various repetitive strain injuries including carpal tunnel syndrome, rotator cuff injuries, neck pain and headaches. To minimize the chances of developing these injuries, your work station should be set up properly to accommodate your needs.
- Adjust your chair so that your upper legs are horizontal with the floor, your knees should be slightly lower than your hips. Your feet should be flat on the floor, and the backrest should support your lower back comfortably. Use a foot rest if your feet do not rest on the floor.
- Adjust your chair height so that, while you’re typing, your elbows are at a 90-degree angle and your wrists are straight.
- Adjust your computer monitor so that the top of the screen is at your eye level.
- Use a document holder so your papers can be kept at the same level as your computer monitor.
- Typing and mousing should feel comfortable and be done as close to your torso as possible.
- Adjust the window blinds or lighting so there is no glare on the computer screen.
Secondly and equally as important is to take frequent breaks and to stretch in between tasks. Getting up every hour to grab water or use the washroom will help to prevent muscles from fatiguing.
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Dr. Nekessa Remy is an award-winning chiropractor, a registered and medical acupuncturist and one of Canada’s fastest rising and sought-after health and wellness expert in the industry today. She is the current owner of Mississauga’s The Chiropractic Office, a comprehensive injury management clinic focused on sports-related injuries and woman’s health issues and also runs a practice in downtown Toronto, at Integra Health Centre where she works amongst other leaders in the health care field.