An important fact about overexertion injuries is that they are preventable. But it takes training, positive feedback and correction, employee involvement and cooperation to make a prevention program work.
Identify overexertion risks. Once you've pinpointed the risks, you can modify workstations, job procedures, and the work environment to minimize the risks. Examples: storing heavy items low to avoid excessive reaching and strain; reducing the depth of shelves to reduce overreaching; and modifying the work environment to reduce the need for twisting, bending, and other awkward postures.
Provide lifting aids. Manual and powered lifting aids reduce the strain on human bodies and greatly reduce the risk of overexertion in many material handling tasks.
Prohibit solo lifting of heavy loads. A 50-pound limit for solo lifting is recommended. More than that and employees should be required to get help or use a lifting aid. Lifting or carrying loads that weigh 50 pounds or more increases a person's risk for a serious back injury.
Include lifting requirements in job descriptions. Spell out any lifting requirements right in the job description so that these requirements will be taken into account when hiring new workers.
Require frequent short breaks. A study conducted at Ohio State University and funded by NIOSH indicates that workers who do a lot of lifting should take frequent breaks to relax tired, tense muscles and reduce the risk of injury—particularly back injury.
Encourage early reporting of overexertion injuries. Early treatment for an employee back injury or other overexertion-related injury can reduce the risk of recurrence and reduce your workers' compensation claims costs.