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Overexertion

Last updated: November 29, 2021

What Does Overexertion Mean?

Overexertion refers to any case in which a person works or exerts themselves beyond their physical capabilities. In addition to causing discomfort, overexertion can result in severe physical injury or musculoskeletal strain.

Overexertion is the leading cause of nonfatal injuries that result in lost work time. Severe cases can result in hernias, heart disease, or osteoperosis.

Safeopedia Explains Overexertion

Overexertion happens whe someone exerts themselves to a degree that their body's soft tissues cannot tolerate.

Overexertion injuries are generally classified under two categories:

  • Sprains (stretching or tearing of ligaments)
  • Strains (stretching or tearing of tendons or muscles)

The exact amount of exertion the body can handle before sustaining one of these injuries depends on a variety of factors, including:

  • Age
  • Physical condition
  • Flexibility
  • Weight
  • Strength

Certain jobs will also put workers at greater risk of injuries resulting from overexertion. Physically demanding work, for instance, or work that is carried out in awkward positions (such as kneeling or bending for extended periods of time) can put additional strain on the body.

Common Causes of Overexertion

Overexertion is generally caused by the following activities:

  • Lifting, pulling, pushing, holding, throwing, and carrying heavy items (usually more than 50 pounds)
  • Repeated or long-term bending or twisting at the waist
  • Reaching for items at a higher level
  • Long-term poor posture while sitting or standing
  • Long-term vibration absorption from machine or vehicle

Common Injuries Linked to Overexertion

  • Back injuries. This is the most common type of injury and accounts for over 60% of overexertion injuries, ranging from mild strains to serious spinal cord injury. Severe injuries may require surgery and physical therapy.
  • Neck injuries. Any injury to the neck can cause severe pain and disorientation.
  • Muscle strains. Commonly occurs when pushing, pulling, lifting, or carrying.
  • Injuries to the joints, tendons, and connective tissues. Overexertion can harm or tear these vital parts of the body, leading to severe pain and sometimes requiring corrective surgery.

Preventing Overexertion Injuries

Following guidelines given by the Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) is a good place to start. Employers are obligated to provide adequate protective gear, and employees should use them for their own safety. The following measures can be used to reduce the incidence and severity of overexertion injuries:

  • Optimize storage space
  • Use aids to handle heavy material
  • Design for neutral position
  • Enhance employee training
  • Use accident investigation as a learning tool
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Employee HealthErgonomicsEHS Programs

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