Orthopedic Surgeons Offer Tips to Reduce Workplace Injuries

The American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons has released guidelines to help workers reduce their risk of injury on the job.

One-third of all work injuries are due to repetitive motions or sprains and strains, according to the federal Department of Labor. In response, the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons has developed its "Prevent Injuries America!" campaign, a comprehensive guide to helping people reduce injury risk.

"Musculoskeletal conditions have reached epidemic proportions, costing the U.S. $254 billion annually," said Dr. Richard Gelberman, president of the academy. "We must proactively initiate and maintain prevention programs to get America back to work."

As part of the campaign, the academy has released the following safety tips for the workplace:

Lift Properly. Proper lifting requires the use of the legs, not your back or arms. Plan what you want to do and don''t be in a hurry. Position yourself close to the object you want to lift. Separate your feet shoulder-width apart to give yourself a solid base of support. Bend at the knees. Tighten your stomach muscles. Lift with your leg muscles as you stand up. Don''t try to lift by yourself and object that is too heavy or an awkward shape. Get help. To lift a very light object from the floor, such as a piece of paper, lean over the object, slightly bend on knee and extend the other leg behind you. Hold on to a nearby chair or table for support as you reach down to the object.

Sit Correctly. Sit with your back in a normal, slightly arched position. Keep your head and shoulders erect. make sure your chair supports your lower back. Also make sure that your working surface is at the proper height so you do not have to lean forward. Once an hour, if possible, stand and stretch. Place your hands on your lower back and gently arch backward.

Wear the Right Shoes. Shoes should conform to the natural shape of your feet. More than 43 million Americans have trouble with their feet, mostly from improperly fitting shoes. That translates into $3.5 billion a year in foot problems. In selecting shoes, keep this basic principle of good fit in mind: Your feet should never be forced to conform to the shape of a pair of shoes.

Remove obstacles. Eliminate tripping hazards and install handrails, grab bars and other devices where necessary.

Use Ladders Safely. When using a ladder, avoid overreaching or leaning far to one side. That could throw you off balance. Ladder falls can produce serious injuries.

Properly set up the ladder. Every ladder should be placed on a firm, level surface. The ground may be very bumpy because of the freezing and thawing during the winter. There could also be soft, muddy spots. Never place a ladder on ground that is uneven. The same is true for uneven flooring. And remember to always engage the ladder locks or braces before you climb.

For more information, visit the AAOS Web site at www.aaos.org.

by Melissa Martin

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