Overexertion on the job is a common cause of painful and disabling injuries that can lower productivity, damage employee morale -- and generate costly insurance claims.

What's especially distressing about these injuries is that they're so easy to avoid. That's where you come in. Warn your workers about the dangers of overexertion and how to prevent it. Begin by reminding them that it's essential to avoid overexertion if there's a history of heart disease in their family or if they're advancing in age, overweight, or unaccustomed to prolonged physical activity.

Hours, weeks, or even a lifetime of physical harm can result from acts that take only minutes to perform, such as workers:

  • Using incorrect techniques when moving or lifting heavy objects.
  • Trying to "muscle" their way through a job by themselves when it would have been wiser to get help.
  • Avoiding an extra trip when moving materials by adding an extra package or box to an already full load.
  • Overextending their reach to paint "that one last spot," just so they won't have to descend a ladder, reposition it, and climb again.

Be aware that employees might overexert themselves in order to save time, avoid appearing "weak," or bother co-workers.

Encourage employees to follow such safe work practices as lifting correctly, know their physical limitations, and ask for help if necessary. Create an atmosphere of cooperation in which co-workers are always ready and willing to help when asked.

Let employees know that "no pain, no gain" — once a motto for bodybuilders and exercise enthusiasts -- just doesn't cut it these days. According to medical professionals, ignoring pain, and continuing to do whatever's causing it, is neither smart nor healthy. The only "gain" will be more pain and perhaps actual damage to the body. Encourage employees who want to work safely and smartly to replace this outdated motto with a better slogan: "heed pain to avoid strain."

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