Sprains and strains account for about a third of injuries in construction. A sprain is an injury to a ligament, the tough, fibrous tissue that connects bones and other bones. Sprains involve a stretching or a tearing of the tissue. Ankle, knee, and wrist injuries account for most sprains. A strain is an injury to either a muscle or a tendon, the tissue that connects muscles to bones. Back injuries are the most prevalent regarding strains. Depending on the severity of the injury, a strain may be a simple overstretch of the muscle or tendon, or it can result in a partial or complete tear. Maintaining good physical fitness is essential in avoiding sprains and strains.
To minimize the chances of sprains, observe the following practices:
- Practice safety measures to help prevent falls such as good 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.
Follow these helpful tips and you will greatly reduce the chance that you will experience a painful sprain or strain:
- 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 before lifting. Consider the weight of the object, how far you must carry it, and your route of travel. 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.
- 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.
- 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.
Safety begins with you!