What are Sprains, Strains and Crushing Injuries
Sprains and strains are very common injuries on a construction site. A sprain is a wrench or twist to your ligament violently which causes pain and swelling. A strain is an acute or chronic soft tissue injury that occurs to a muscle, tendon or both. These injuries can occur frequently and are often accompanied by lengthy recovery periods. Maintaining good physical fitness is essential in avoiding sprains and strains. There are also many cases each year where workers receive crushing injuries on a construction site, which can too result in lengthy recovery periods.
The Causes of Sprains and Strains
Sprains and strains can happen suddenly or develop over the course of days, weeks or months. When a worker is exposed to causative risk factors, they are more likely to develop a sprain / strain.
There are two general categories of risk factors; ergonomic (workplace) risk factors and individual risk factors.
Ergonomic (Workplace) Risk Factors:
- Excessive Force:Many work tasks require high force loads on the human body. Muscle effort increases in response to high force requirements, increasing associated fatigue which can lead to MSD.
- Excessive Repetition:Many work tasks and cycles are repetitive in nature, and are frequently controlled by hourly or daily production targets and work processes. High task repetition, when combined with other risks factors such high force and/or awkward postures, can contribute to the formation of MSD. A job is considered highly repetitive if the cycle time is 30 seconds or less.
- Awkward Posture:Awkward postures place excessive force on joints and overload the muscles and tendons around the effected joint. Joints of the body are most efficient when they operate closest to the mid-range motion of the joint. Risk of MSD is increased when joints are worked outside of this mid-range repetitively or for sustained periods of time without adequate recovery time.
- Other environmental factors: Slip, trip and fall hazards increase risk of a sudden / acute soft tissue injury.
By observing the following practices, you can minimise the chances of sprains:
- Practice safety measures to help prevent falls. For example, practice safe housekeeping by keeping work areas clear of clutter.
- Avoid strenuous activity on the job when tired or in pain.
- Use extra caution when working on slippery surfaces such as ice or wet floors.
- Always wear appropriate and proper fitting footwear for your job.
- Use extra caution when walking across uneven surfaces. These are areas where you could easily turn or twist an ankle or knee.
- When stepping off ladders, always look where you are placing your feet, before you put your full weight on them.
- Report all potentially unsafe areas to your supervisor.
By observing the following practices, you can minimise the chances of strains:
- Be certain that you understand your employer’s Material Handling Safety program.
- Do not lift anything that you are not familiar with in relation to weight and centre of gravity until you are trained or have practise lifted.
- Whenever possible, arrange your work areas to minimize the amount of heavy lifting required.
- Before any heavy lifting activity, always warm up, using moderate stretching exercises. Do not stretch aggressively as you may over-stretch and injure yourself.
- Always plan the lift. Consider the weight of the object; how far you must carry it and your route of travel. When you approach an object on the floor, try to get an idea of how heavy it may be by moving it with your foot or cautiously lifting it off the ground. If the object is too heavy, seek additional help or use a mechanical lifting device such as a forklift, hand truck or winch.
- Lift objects in the “power zone”. This is the area between mid-thigh and mid-chest height. Avoid lifting objects outside this zone. Use your best judgment when lifting heavy objects. Do not attempt to lift an object that exceeds your strength, and use extreme caution when lifting objects exceeding 25kg.
- Always carry objects close to your body.
- Always lift slowly and smoothly.
- Avoid twisting. Always turn the whole body as one unit when changing direction while carrying a heavy object.
- Move heavy objects by pushing or pulling, whenever possible. Pushing is always preferable. 10. Always stand close to the object that you are lifting and be certain that fingers and toes are clear when setting it down.
- Always lift with your legs and not your back.
By observing the following practices, you can minimise the chances of crushing injuries:
- Do a risk assessment to establish how you could be hurt by equipment in your work-place. Consider doors, shutters, machinery, tools and other items which could potentially trap and crush you, or close on you unexpectedly.
- Think about the control measures you should implement to prevent crush injuries. This might include putting sensors on equipment that cause it to cut out if workers are detected in the area, or by preventing workers from entering certain places by using barriers and warning signs.
- Attend any training that shows how work equipment must be used safely, and what the dangers are of misusing it. Ensure that they know where to stand when using equipment controls, to avoid coming into contact with machinery.
- Remember that often, the power will need to be isolated from equipment to stop it moving unexpectedly, so you will need to make sure the equipment cannot be turned on by any other means. The keys to controls, doors/hatches etc. should be kept on the person undertaking the work, unless an alternative locking-off procedure is used.