When considering the physical demands of a task, think about your working population. Will the majority of workers completing the task be Men? Women? Is the population Older? Younger? Taller? Shorter? Where possible, tailor the task and the work environment to meet the physical capabilities and characteristics of your working population. Fit the task to the worker to decrease risk of injury.
“Whoever said ‘do the job right the first time and you’ll never have to do it again’ never shovelled snow off a Canadian driveway, eh?” – Bob and Doug McKenzie . Here are some tips for shovelling snow from a Kinesiologist’s perspective:
- First things first – warm up! Hopping out of bed at 5am and immediately lifting and pushing 800 lbs of wet snow will inevitably result in injury. Make sure to warm up first to avoid muscle strain. Go for a walk, or at the very least, start by brushing off your car to get your body moving.
- The biggest shovel is not necessarily the best shovel. The bigger the shovel, the bigger the load. Choose a medium sized shovel to control the weight of the load of snow you are lifting.
- Get low! Use safe lifting, pushing and pulling principles. Keep the shovel close to your body, elbows tucked. Engage your core muscles. Get under the load by squatting down before lifting the shovel full of snow. Use your legs instead of your upper body to do most of the work.
- Face the load that you’re lifting head-on. Twisting while lifting increases risk of injury.
- Switch sides! Vary your hand positioning on the shovel to equally distribute the load to both the left and right sides of your body.
- Take your time and take a break. Shovelling is hard work – take a break every 5-10 minutes to give your muscles a chance to rest and recover and avoid fatigue.
- Is the weight of the object lifted more than 25kg (male) or 15 kg (female)?
- Is the initial push / pull force greater than 32 kg (male) or 22 kg (female)?
- Does the worker handle a cumulative load greater than 10 000 kg per day?
- Does the work environment or task require a bent or stooped posture?
- Is the worker required to twist the trunk during the task?
- Are objects handled above shoulder or below waist level?
- Does the task require reach to the front or the side?
- Is the task repetitive?
Any one or any combination of the above increases risk of musculoskeletal injury. Reduce risk of injury by decreasing push/pull and lift/lower forces, designing the task and workstation to allow the worker to use good body mechanics, and institute a job rotation schedule to decrease repetitive movements and allow for muscle recovery.
Why does time matter? Working in one position for a prolonged period of time may result in muscle fatigue and / or decreased blood flow, leading to risk of injury. Give yourself a break! Change positions frequently; alternate tasks to allow for muscle recovery.
Have you ever watched a toddler pick something up off the floor? Instead of bending their back and reaching down, they tend to use a squat technique, keeping the spine in a neutral posture. This is the ideal technique to use to avoid injury when picking up a moderate to heavy object from floor-level. Take it from a toddler and try it out!!
Do your wrists start to ache after a long day at the computer? To avoid wrist fatigue and strain during typing, float the hands above the keyboard while keeping the wrists straight. Rest the palms on the palm rest only during pauses in typing. Place the mouse as close to the keyboard as possible on the same surface to avoid bending the wrist sideways repeatedly to access the mouse.
Fall is here! While giant piles of colourful leaves are great fun for children, raking can wreak havoc on mom and dad’s backs. To avoid back and shoulder aches while getting your lawn and garden ready for winter, try this:
- When raking leaves, switch sides often to allow your upper body and back muscles to recover during the task
- Keep the rake close to your body – minimize your reach to minimize strain on your shoulders
- Alternate tasks – switch between raking and gardening every 20 minutes or so to change posture and decrease muscle fatigue
- When splitting plants, get close to the plants and squat instead of bending to minimize back strain.
Do you ever find yourself with your back bent forward over the sink while you brush your teeth? Often, we lean forward to turn on the tap and forget to stand back up again! Remaining bent over the sink requires our back muscles to remain contracted to hold the weight of our trunk while we lean forward. Static muscle activation places strain on our spine, and over time, may lead to discomfort or injury.
So, to avoid unnecessary strain to your back, remember to maintain a neutral spine posture during every day activities – it all adds up, so stand up!
Focus Ergonomics provides training on a variety of topics and will customize any training session to meet your individual needs. Popular seminar topics include office ergonomics, back injury prevention, safe patient handling, manual materials handling, worker health and safety and train the trainer programs.
A well adjusted office workstation increases comfort and productivity, decreases lost
time and leads to higher employee satisfaction.