What Are Sprains and Strains?
Work can certainly be emotionally and mentally taxing, and according to numerous statistics, it can also be physically harmful. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics, in 2017, 2.8 million non-fatal workplace injuries and illnesses were reported by employees within the private sector. Of these, sprains, strains, and tears are the most common type of workplace injuries by both the frequency of workers’ compensation claims and their severity. It affects more than 34,000 workers. In both 2016 and 2017, the rate of workers with this type of injury was 27.5 cases per 10,000 full-time workers. In 2016, the median time away from work for one of these injuries was 11 days, while in 2017 it dropped down to 10 days. Most sprains and strains affected the back (36 percent), followed by the knee and shoulder (12 percent each).
What Are Sprains and Strains?
So what exactly are sprains and strains? A sprain is an injury to a ligament, in which it is stretched or torn, while a strain is an injury to a muscle or tendon, in which it is stretched or torn. Either of these injuries may be acute (sudden onset) or chronic (continue to be an issue over a long period of time).
Risk Factors of Sprains and Strains
While on the job, a variety of risk factors can contribute to these most common workplace injuries. These include:
- Awkward posture
- Excessive force
- Excessive repetition
- Other environmental issues
However, it is not only the employer who contributes to the risk of injury, but also the workers. Workers can up their odds of incurring one of these injuries by engaging in several factors. These factors include:
- Poor recognition of early signs and symptoms
- Poor fitness
- Poor hydration
- Poor nutrition
- Poor overall health
- Poor rest and recovery
An increase in risk factors – both job-related and individual – increases the likelihood of an individual suffering from a musculoskeletal injury or disorder.
What Can You Do? Implementation of Controls
How can you attempt to mitigate your chances of suffering these injuries? Prevention is better than treatment. The first and most important practice is to identify any existing risk factors and then implement safety protocols against them. It only makes sense then, that the more controls that are implemented, the less likely your chances of injury. These controls, ergonomic or individual, are different depending upon the type of risk:
Ergonomic Controls include:
- Administrative controls
- Engineering controls
Individual Controls include:
- Early intervention
- Education and training
As an employee, you can prevent individual risk by putting into action those items you can control, such as keeping your body fit. Ergonomic controls however, are somewhat out of your hands. It is the responsibility of the employer to set into play specific measures and controls in order to ensure that its employees are safe. However, the very best outcome occurs when a company and its workers take responsibility for getting a job done safely.
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