Overexertion is one of the most common causes of work injuries in all age groups, and the number one reason for lost work days. According to a workplace safety index created by Liberty Mutual Holding Company Inc., overexertion and slip and fall accidents are consistently the top two causes of workplace injuries. Almost a quarter of all workplace injuries were due to overexertion from handling objects, which costed employers a total of $13.98 billion.
What Causes Overexertion?
When a task being performed is too strenuous, muscles, tendons, or ligaments are at risk of being strained or sprained. Injuries are more likely to occur if the worker is in poor physical condition or fatigued.
Additional risk factors include tasks that require forceful exertions, such as the following
- Excessive lifting.
- Pushing and pulling.
- Repetitive movements.
- Awkward postures, such as twisting or stretching.
- Extended periods of sitting or standing.
- Temperature extremes and vibrations can also contribute to overexertion injuries.
Since every individual is unique in their physical capabilities, the point at which overexertion occurs is different for each person. This makes it difficult for employers to identify exactly what constitutes excessive physical effort for each worker. Some workers may be mismatched to their work task and need to be reassigned.
What are Common Overexertion Injuries?
Typical overexertion injuries include:
- Back injuries: Back injuries can range from mild strains to serious spinal cord injuries. Some conditions require surgery and rehabilitation therapy afterwards.
- Muscle sprains and strains: These can occur in different parts of the body, including hands, arms, back, legs, and ankles.
- Injuries to the joints, tendons, and connective tissue: Dislocation, inflammation, and tears are common examples in this category.
- Neck injuries: Usually a result of working in awkward positions neck injuries cause chronic pain if unresolved.
- Heat exhaustion: An overexertion injury common in outdoor workers but can also happen in overheated indoor manufacturing conditions.
While some injuries occur because of a single lift or forceful exertion, many are the result of the cumulative effects of ergonomically unhealthy motions being used to accomplish tasks.
What are the Symptoms of Overexertion?
Workers need to be trained to mitigate the risk of overexertion. Recognizing the signs of overexertion injuries can help prevent serious injuries from developing.
Symptoms of overexertion includes:
- Posture problems
- Soreness and discomfort
- Loss of strength
Who is at Risk for Overexertion Injuries?
Any worker can experience an overexertion work injury, but some industries present a higher risk than others. Workers in the following categories are at the highest risk for overexertion injuries:
- Construction: Many construction workers handle and lift heavy materials in awkward spaces.
- Medical and health care: Since medical staff need to lift and move patients, hospital workers experience overexertion injuries at twice the average of other industries.
- Warehouse: Workers in warehouses spend most of their time pushing, pulling, and lifting goods, which increases the likelihood of overexertion injuries.
- Retail: Workers in the retail sector must unload trucks, restock shelves, and track inventory.
- Manufacturing: Many workers in manufacturing must complete their jobs along assembly lines at a fast pace. Repetitive tasks using the same muscle groups can lead to fatigue and overexertion injuries.
How Can I Prevent an Overexertion Injury?
There are many ways to reduce the risk of overexertion injuries, and employers have a responsibility to find solutions to the ergonomic problems presented in the workplace.
Ergonomic solutions can vastly reduce the risk of injury for workers. For instance, tasks can be evaluated to see if mechanical assistance can be used to move heavy loads, manual lifts should be done with least amount of load weight possible, and workers must be trained in proper lifting techniques.
Frequent breaks must be taken from repetitive tasks or tasks that require a sustained position. Many employers worry that taking breaks impedes productivity, but the opposite is true because preventing injuries improves productivity.
Rotation of tasks can help workers avoid too much repetitive motion. Workers at desks should have adjustable chairs and check to see that computer keyboards are at the correct height.
Awkward postures, such as bending and twisting in an unnatural manner, should be reduced by designing jobs so that they are not necessary. Workers need to have enough space to do their jobs comfortably. Avoid any motions that are done off to the sides of the body, such as pushing, pulling, or lifting.
Finally, workers should always warm up and loosen muscles before performing physical tasks. Regular exercise and strength training can help prevent overexertion injuries.
Can I Get Workers’ Compensation for an Overexertion Injury?
Pennsylvania requires most employers to buy Workers’ Compensation insurance coverage for workers. Under this no-fault system, workers can receive medical treatment and compensation for lost wages while employers remain protected from direct lawsuits by employees. Coverage begins from the first day on the job, and compensation is available for injuries and occupational illnesses arising from employment.
Workers’ Compensation benefits can help cover medical expenses, including hospital stays and prescription medications, and lost wages if one is unable to work because of an injury.
Overexertion injuries resulting from employment are eligible for Workers’ Compensation. If one suffers an overexertion injury, it is important to speak to a lawyer. A lawyer will help file a claim and ensure that the client receives necessary benefits.
Allegheny County Workers’ Compensation Lawyers at AlpernSchubert P.C. Fight for the Rights of Injured Workers
If you have suffered an overexertion work injury, contact one of our experienced Allegheny County Workers’ Compensation lawyers at AlpernSchubert P.C. for help filing a claim for benefits. Our skilled team will take you through the entire process to ensure you get the maximum benefits available to you. For a free consultation, complete our online form or call us at 412-765-1888. Located in Pittsburgh, we serve clients throughout western Pennsylvania, including Allegheny County, Lawrence County, and Washington County.