Safety Tips - Musculoskeletal Injuries

Safety Tips - Musculoskeletal Injuries

Musculoskeletal injuries are the most common and expensive occupational health problem in the United States, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Causes of musculoskeletal injuries (also known as repetitive-stress, repetitive-strain and repetitive-motion injuries, and cumulative-trauma disorders) include repetitive motion, heavy lifting, awkward posture or a combination of these factors. In the landscaping industry, tasks such as lifting and carrying, using powered and non-powered tools, reaching, bending and pushing and pulling heavy loads throughout the day can lead to musculoskeletal injuries – most commonly, sprains to the back, neck and shoulders.


· Keep your back straight when performing repetitive tasks.

· Exercise regularly to strengthen joints and muscles. Being in good physical shape helps your body endure repetitive motions.

· Use wheeled devices for carrying bulky and/or heavy loads. Using wheel barrows, dollies, hand trucks, forklifts and skid-steer loaders can significantly reduce your risk for injury.

· Wear shoulder harnesses or straps when they are available. Line trimmers, leaf blowers and hedge trimmers are often equipped with these. Adjust the strap to the best fit for you. These devices are designed to take pressure off your back and arms, reducing muscle fatigue and pulled muscles.

· Use the right tool for the job, and keep tools with blades sharpened. Using sharp tools takes less effort.

· Stretch before work and during breaks. Also take micro-breaks – 20- to 30-second pauses in which you stop performing tasks.

· Properly lift and lower objects weighing 50 pounds or less.

              - Face the object, place your feet shoulder-width apart and make sure your footing is firm.

              - Ensure gloves fit correctly and get a good grip on the object.

              - Keep the load close to your body and directly in front of you. Keep your elbows, chin and arms tucked in tight and your body weight directly over your feet.

              - Bend at your knees and lift with your legs while keeping your back as straight as possible.   

              - Lift or lower the object in a smooth, controlled motion. Avoid twisting


· Stay in the same position for a long time. When standing or bending for long periods, shift weight from foot to foot.

· Twist your back as this strains the spine. Instead, turn your feet and arms to reach for objects.

· Overextend your reach while on a ladder. You should not lift bulky loads, those weighing more than 50 pounds or those weighing more than 35 pounds (if you are doing repetitive lifting) without assistance.

· Change your grip during a lift, unless you can safely support the weight during the grip transition.

· Lift loads higher than your chest or toss objects weighing more than 5 pounds.

· Reach forward, overhead or behind your back when lifting or lowering objects.