Last Updated: 11/2/2023
The National Safety Council (NSC) lists overexertion as the third-leading cause of unintentional injuries in the United States. It accounts for 3.3 million emergency visits a year. Overexertion means taking part in an activity or group of activities that causes you to exceed your own strength. This is a condition that may affect workers in labor-intensive jobs. Overexertion in the workplace may be due to factors such as repetitive motion, working in an awkward position or improper technique.
Learn to Recognize the Signs of Overexertion at Work
If you do not wish to be one of the 3.3 million people to wind up in an emergency room, it is important to learn the signs of overexertion. There is no glory working through the pain to get the job done. You need to listen to what your body is telling you, and when it gives you signs to stop, you need to pay attention. The following are recognizable signs of overexertion:
- sore muscles;
- high pulse and fluttering heartbeat;
- sweating profusely;
- lower abdominal pain; and
If you experience any of these symptoms, it is time to slow down and take a break. If you experience chest pain with these symptoms, you should seek medical attention and call your doctor immediately.
Why Overexertion is Dangerous
Overexertion typically occurs when an employee feels under pressure to get their job done, so they push their body past its normal limits. There is a downside to overexertion for both the employee and the employer. Employees who push themselves beyond their limits, especially when it comes to lifting or carrying heavy items, can end up throwing their back out, slipping, and falling, as well as various other injuries. The typical injuries that occur from these types of accidents are debilitating, putting the employee out of work for a long period of time, causing further delays in the work getting done for the employer as well as a loss of wages for the employee and the necessity to file a workers' compensation claim.
Overexertion can also occur in employees that work outdoors in the hot summer months. Heat exhaustion is extremely common in the construction industry where the employees are working in direct sunlight, in extreme heat and with powerful tools. Heat exhaustion usually hits out of nowhere and can have very detrimental results, even landing the injured in the hospital.
How to Prevent Overexertion at Work
The best way to prevent overexertion is to pay attention to your physical habits. Practice good posture and technique whenever performing a job with a physical aspect. The following are good practices to employ when working in a highly physical environment:
- Use good posture to ensure that your spine is aligned properly. Your nose and your toes should face the same direction, points out the NSC.
- Ensure your workspace is ergonomically correct. There are many resources available online to help you figure how your space works best for your health.
- Keep your loads light and bend with your knees. You are far better off lifting a few extra loads than pushing your body past its physical limitations to get the job done faster.
- Take breaks. You do not need to be a hero. If you recognize the signs of overexertion in your workplace, take a breather and let your body rest for a few minutes.
- Stretch before your shift. Just as in your workouts, warmed-up muscles are more pliable and less likely to be injured.
- Try strength training. Adding a bit of strength training to your daily workout may help prepare you to carry those unavoidably heavy loads.
- Mix up your work routine. To avoid repetitive motion injuries, try to incorporate different aspects of your job in between.
If injured due to overexertion at your workplace in the Des Moines area, you may file a workers’ compensation claim to recover medical and disability benefits.