Every year millions of workers are injured while performing their jobs and, according to the National Safety Council, the leading cause of these injuries is physical overexertion. Alone, work injuries caused by overexertion cost the country $15.1 billion in workers’ compensation costs. Furthermore, overexertion injuries were the second leading cause of missed days at work for American workers. Here’s what South Carolina workers need to know about overexertion injuries on the job and how they can avoid them.
Defining Overexertion Injuries
An overexertion injury can be sustained when a load exceeds the limits of the person doing the work. They may stretch or tear a person’s ligaments, tendons, and muscles, leading to sprains and strains of various body parts, including the neck, shoulders, knees, and wrists. These types of injuries occur from either repetitive motion or acute causes, including lifting, carrying, pushing, or pulling heavy objects or doing work in an awkward position. The pain associated with overexertion injuries can be acute, but should lessen after appropriate medical care and rest.
Individuals may be at greater risk for overexertion injuries if they are in poor physical condition or overweight. Additionally, aging and loss of flexibility may also increase a person’s risk of sustaining an overexertion injury.
Symptoms of Overexertion
It is important to recognize if you or another worker is overexerting themselves. Some signs and symptoms of overexertion in the workplace include:
- Losing your breath or failure to talk – A person who is overexerting themselves physically will generally be short of breath and unable to speak. While performing work-related tasks, such as lifting, workers should be sure they are not breathing to hard. Take a few moments to pause from the task and relax if you are having trouble breathing.
- Feeling dehydrated – A worker who is overexerting themselves will usually feel dehydrated. Dizziness, dry mouth, scant urine, fatigue, and muscle cramps are all signs of dehydration.
- Fatigue and muscle/joint aches – Overexertion can lead to a variety of chronic injuries, including stress fractures and tendinitis. Soreness and aching in joints or muscles are precursors to most overexertion injuries and it’s important to discontinue the activity at least temporarily if you are noticing pain.
Treating an Overexertion Injury
If you think you have sustained an overexertion injury at work, it’s important that you report the injury to your employer so you can take the appropriate steps to recover. Depending on the severity of your overexertion injury, you can relieve the condition and symptoms in several ways, including:
- Anti-inflammatory drugs – doctors may advise workers with overexertion injuries to take drugs, such as Ibuprofen or Naproxen, to reduce inflammation of the injury.
- Heat treatments – Applying heat is a good way to reduce the pain from overexertion injuries to the muscles and joints. Taking a warm water bath with Epsom salt can relieve pain and help you relax.
- Rest – Regardless of the type of overexertion injury sustained, the most reliable and important treatment is rest. Depending on the severity of the strain or sprain a worker may have to rest anywhere from a few days to several weeks. A sprained ankle, for instance, may require crutches and up to six weeks of rest.
Preventing Workplace Overexertion
Preventing overexertion injuries in the workplace is the responsibility of both employers and workers. A majority of overexertion injuries and accidents are the result of unsafe practices by people themselves as opposed to many other workplace injuries that can be blamed partially on machinery or equipment. For any jobs that involve lifting or handling heavy objects, employers should ensure their employees are properly trained to use the correct body mechanics for lifting, pushing, and pulling tasks.
Workers can avoid overexertion injuries by:
- Understanding your limits – Probably the most crucial factor for preventing overexertion injuries at work or home is knowing your own limits. When doing any job duty, the worker should pay attention to their own body and be aware if the task is leading to any muscle soreness, cramping, fatigue, or pain and these all indicate overexertion.
- Using proper body mechanics and good posture – Using proper technique in activities such as lifting is very important for protecting muscles, joints, and ligaments against overuse. Poor form and posture are common causes of injury, including overexertion of the neck or back.
- Taking breaks – Workers performing physically strenuous tasks should be sure to take adequate breaks to prevent overexertion. The most effective breaks involve rest, stretching the muscles, and rehydrating to prevent fluid loss. Warning signs of exertion that may require immediate medical assistance include dizziness, rapid pulse and irregular heartbeat, chest pain, and profuse sweating.
- Getting assistance for tasks that are too difficult – When a work task calls for lifting, pushing, carrying, or pulling any heavy object, a worker should ask for help if they are unable to handle the load themselves. If another person is unable to assist, using equipment to help move the object is best.
Compensation Available for Overexertion Injuries
Overexertion injuries are the most common workplace injuries and most South Carolina workers qualify for workers’ compensation if they sustain such an injury. Depending on the severity of the injury, a worker be eligible for compensation for medical expenses related to the injury and for any time away from work. In order to receive any of the benefits, a worker must report the injury to their employer and file a workers’ compensation claim with the South Carolina Workers’ Compensation Commission.
Talk to a Greenville Workers’ Compensation Attorney
Being injured at work can be difficult, especially if you must take time off of work while medical bills accumulate. While workers’ compensation is available for overexertion injuries and other work-related accidents to most South Carolina workers, the workers’ compensation claim process can be difficult to navigate. If you are an injured worker and aren’t sure of your rights, it’s important to contact a qualified Greenville, SC workers’ compensation attorney. For years, the Dan Pruitt Injury Law Firm has been helping injured workers secure the compensation they deserve for their injuries in Greenville, South Carolina. Contact us today for a free consultation.