Are you working in a warehouse or in the retail industry where continuous lifting and moving of merchandise can cause chronic pain? Although sprains and strains are prevalent in these industries, they are preventable. However, to create an environment that will eliminate these soft tissue injuries, both you and your boss might have to make some changes.
What is the difference between sprains and strains?
Sprains and strains are both soft tissue injuries. While you may experience an instant and acute pain if such an injury occurs, it could develop over time if your job requires repetitive actions. Ligaments join two or more bones wherever there is a joint in your body. When such a ligament tears or stretches, it causes a sprain. Strains, on the other hand, involve the tearing or stretching of tendons or muscles where they connect with bones.
How can a company prevent soft tissue injuries?
It is the responsibility of business owners to provide safe workplace surroundings, and assessing ergonomic risk factors is a good place to start. Ergonomics is the science of matching a job to the worker to lessen soft tissue injuries and MSDs. It involves designing workplaces and systems in ways that fit those who use them.
What are the ergonomic risks to assess?
- Excessive force caused by heavy loads that require extreme muscle effort present a high risk to many warehouse workers.
- Excessive repetition of tasks that are often linked to daily or hourly targets for work processes or production can cause injuries to develop over time.
- Awkward postures -- especially when combined with excessive force and repetition -- place unnecessary force on joints and increase the risk of sprains and strains.
- Environmental risks include hazards that can cause slips, trips and falls that increase the risk of sudden soft tissue injuries that can cause acute pain.
How can you, as an employee, prevent soft tissue injuries?
It is your responsibility to keep your body fit for your chosen profession and to practice proper technique and work practices.
What are the individual risk factors?
- By using poor lifting techniques and other body mechanics, you put constant stress on ligaments and muscles.
- Health habits that may jeopardize not only your overall well-being but put you at a higher risk of musculoskeletal disorders include smoking, excessive drinking, obesity and more.
- Neglecting nutrition, hydration and fitness also increases the risk of suffering soft tissue injuries.
- If you allow fatigue to outrun your body's recovery system by not allowing enough time to rest and recover, you may cause a musculoskeletal imbalance and be at a high risk of injury.
- Listening to your body, recognizing early signs of soft tissue injuries and seeking medical attention may prevent chronic conditions that might develop over time.
Unfortunately, not all business owners prioritize employee health and safety. If you are suffering chronic pain due to poor workplace ergonomics, you are entitled to pursue compensation for medical expenses and lost income if your condition has caused absence from work. However, proving that a soft tissue injury is work related could be tough, and you may want to seek the support and guidance of an experienced workers' compensation attorney. Some lawyers in California counties such as Orange County, LA County and San Bernardino County offer their services in languages such as Spanish, Vietnamese and Cambodian to protect the rights of all.