This article originally appeared in EHS Today
Workplace fatigue isn’t just mental. The physical aspects can lead to a myriad of ergonomic injuries associated with excessive lifting, carrying and repetitive movement.
Musculoskeletal injuries account for 33% of all workplace injury cases, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Ignoring the risk factors that play into these injuries can lead to a fatigued workforce more prone to injury along with a loss of productivity.
A combination of observation, technology and training workers on the correct ways to move their bodies is the key to reducing sprains, strains and other injuries associated with physical fatigue, says John Post, Worklete co-founder and vice president of product.
“If you bend over and stand up and you round your back, you're using these little tiny muscles in your back to move that weight,” he explains. “If you're keeping your back flat, you're bracing and you're hinging at the hips. You’re using your big bulky glutes and hamstrings and quads, and you're actually going to be able to do more weight longer with much less fatigue. That's going to help not only reduce the chances of you getting injured, but you're actually going to be more productive because you're going be able to do more work.”
Worklete, a San Francisco-based technology provider, collaborates with companies in the transportation, shipping and logistics industries to reduce the rate of musculoskeletal injuries.
Giving team members the tools and wherewithal to cope with physical fatigue can assist employees with managing workplace fatigue as they become physically tired throughout their shifts. The goal is for workers to understand how to move in the strongest positions.
“When we think about improving the way that team members move, we think about helping them understand how to build muscle memory,” Post says. “We use our technology to have them learn, but also be able to practice and receive coaching and feedback. We do this with consistency so that they progressively get better.”
As a worker becomes tired during a repetitive task, the risk factor for injuries escalates. The root cause of the musculoskeletal injuries is that many employees aren’t cognizant of the way their body movement changes as fatigue sets in.
“When people get tired, they make more mistakes,” he says. “If they don't know the best ways to do things in the first place, then those mistakes are going to be much worse.”
With a software platform, a common language can be broadcast throughout an entire company. Workers can discuss proper movement techniques that are demonstrated in formal training videos and can provide a greater amount of accountability across all levels of the organization.
A strong safety culture reinforces practices and values across an entire company. Consistent opportunities and hands-on practice accompanied with emerging safety technology is essential to building processes that will prevent injuries.
“When you think about learning theory, there are two main buckets,” he says. “One is what you would think of as passive learning. And that's things like reading or watching a video or seeing a demonstration. And the second bucket is things that are participatory learning and that includes group discussions, actually engaging in practice, getting coaching and feedback.”