Central West Health & Rehabilitation
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8 Ways to Prevent Sprains & Strains in the Workplace May 4th, 2014
50% of worksite injuries are sprains and strains are the greatest cause of workplace injury.

In the workplace most of these types of injuries are caused by manual tasks such as lifting or carrying loads, working in fixed positions, repetitive tasks or using heavily vibrating toolsThe second greatest cause of sprains and strains is slips, trips and falls at ground level and from heights such as jumping from vehicles, which can cause lower limb and back strains.

While some workplace hazards are easy to spot like a missing guard on a saw or a bucket in the middle of a busy shop floor sprains and strains are not always that obvious.  This is because they can be caused by the way work is designed and carried out like awkward body posture, high body force and high task repetition that is more insidious.

1.  Recognise the Signs – Aches, Become Pains, Become Injuries

Often musculoskeletal injury comes with warning signs and symptoms before an injury occurs, and long before any work is missed. Review the incident reports, listen to your workforce and keep an eye out for things like:

  • Comments about discomfort or pain

  • Stretching or rubbing muscles while working

  • Repetitive similar injuries with specific tasks

  • High turnover or absenteeism in a particular section

2.  Consult about Musculoskeletal Hazards

Talk to workers about the most difficult parts of the job like holding awkward body postures and doing highly repetitive work for extended periods and find a better way together.  Workers who are doing the job are generally best placed to find solutions.

3.  Fix the Hazards

Consider what improvements could be made to the way work is done to improve working posture such as the position of the work or change the workstation layout to eliminate excessive reaching or leaning forward.  Next time you go through a checkout look at the workstation layout and I am sure you will see the risks.

Position frequently used tools and equipment within easy reach and consider adjustable tables to accommodate everyone.  Likewise reduce manual handling by using mechanical lifts to support and to move heavy loads and try to eliminate the lift by changing how objects are stored.  Reducing the physical force and task repetition needed to do the job should be another focus.

Poor health contributes to the risk of strains and sprains. Workplace health promotion has a role in improving emplyee resilience

4.  Consider Individual Factors.

It’s important to take care of the entire body with exercise, proper posture, a sensible diet and adequate rest.  Injury is less likely in a worker who is physically fit than someone whose muscles or ligaments have weakened over time from lack of exercise or age.  Smoking and fatigue are also issues that impact the wear and tear on a body.

Promote individual physical fitness and healthy living through a company wellness program.  Think about introducing stretching before and during work to warm-up muscles and help relieve strain.  Provide training and coach workers frequently on how to move material safety using lifting equipment and safe postures.

5.  Focus on Ergonomic Design

Ergonomics is the match between design, the environment and the individual. It is not a one size fits all.  It allows quality work to be completed safely and easily by fitting the job to the worker and providing appropriate equipment. For example someone who is taller needs a different chair to someone below average height.

6.  Look at Organisational Hazards

If there is poor communication and organizational cooperation and limited worker involvement in decisions that affect working tasks then this will be reflected in a poor corporate culture, low worker morale and higher time lost and costs associated with sprains and strains such as workers’ compensation premium.

7.  Find Workplace Champions

Active OHS can help you address the risks in your workplace. It’s hard to effect change on your own.  It’s a Pantene thing it won’t happen overnight but it will happen if you have the right tools and support. Having workplace wellness champions can assist with raising overall awareness of the health, safety and welfare of the workforce by providing general information to colleagues as well as providing specific details on workplace risks and the support and assistance that is available to effect change.

8. Are you winning?

Set some Benchmarks. How does your workers’ compensation premium compare to other businesses in your industry?  Where do you sit when it comes to sprains and strains?


If you aren't winning our IMS Assessment is inexpensive and can help highlight areas of need. Contact us for more