Sunday, February 18, 2007

Workers Who Lift Need More Breaks to Avoid Back Injury

Taking breaks to avoid back injuries ...

"Workers who are required to perform lifting tasks need to take longer or more frequent breaks to avoid back injury, particularly if they are new on the job, according to a new study published by researchers from Ohio State University.

The study, which appeared in the journal Clinical Biomechanics and is the first to examine what happens to muscle oxygen levels over a full work day, suggests that employees who are new on the job need to take more frequent breaks than do experienced workers, said William Marras, professor of industrial welding and systems engineering at Ohio State University. In addition, the study also risk of injury is higher at the end of a work shift, he said.

Workers who participated in the study lifted boxes onto conveyor belts for 8 hours, while researchers measured the amount of oxygen that was reaching the muscles in their lower backs. The oxygen levels were used to determine how hard the muscles were working, and whether they were becoming fatigued, explained Marras.

Half-Hour Breaks Make Big Difference

Taking a half-hour lunch break helped workers' muscles recover from the morning's exertion, noted researchers, but once they started working again, their oxygen needs rose steeply and kept climbing throughout the afternoon.

"That was alarming to us, because it means that their muscles were becoming fatigued much faster during the afternoon, and we know that fatigue increases the risk of back injury," Marras said.

According to Marras, taking breaks throughout the day helps counteract the risk of back injury, especially at the end of the day when muscles are most vulnerable.

Study coauthor Gang Yang, M.D., who is earning a doctoral degree in biomechanics at Ohio State, said that the researchers' top priority was making sure the participants didn't grow fatigued enough to become injured during the study. The heaviest box they had to lift - 26 pounds - weighed less than half as much as the loads that some workers are routinely required to lift in industry, according to researchers."    (Continued via Occupational Hazards)    [Ergonomics Resources]

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