Are Your Workers Stretching to Prevent Ergonomic Injuries?

Originally posted by Jennifer Busick on May 6, 2015 on

Overexertion, slips, trips, and falls cause 60 percent of lost-time occupational injuries in the United States and cost employers over $30 billion in direct workers’ compensation costs in 2013. One strategy you can use to control these costly injuries is an effective worksite stretching program.

The aging workforce is one factor that increases the likelihood of falls: the U.S. workforce is aging. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), one out of three individuals over age 65 will fall every year, and the incidence rate of falls begins to accelerate at age 45. You can improve the work environment—lighting, flooring, housekeeping—to prevent these types of injuries, but if you’re already on top of all of that, the next step to take may be to address worker factors like poor motor coordination and balance problems that increase the risk of falling.

Increased flexibility can decrease MSDs

An inverse relationship exists between flexibility and risk for musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs)—that is, as flexibility improves, employees reduce their chance of developing an MSD. Improved flexibility and range of motion in these three body parts will have the greatest impact on workers’ ergonomic risk:

  • Hamstrings. Hamstring flexibility relates closely to the ability to lift properly without injury. Individuals with flexible hamstrings can use the powerful muscles in their legs to bear the brunt of lifting heavy objects, while those who are less flexible often lift with their backs, putting them at greater risk for injury.
  • Shoulders. A larger range of shoulder rotation can help workers avoid injuries from reaching and pulling.
  • Trunk. Restricted trunk rotation is a common cause of chronic lower back pain, and a larger range of motion helps workers bend and twist without injury. Employees who have a range of motion less than 90 degrees are at increased risk for injuries, as are those with more than 30 degrees of difference in range of motion between left and right trunk rotation.

Tips for a successful stretching program

These three tips will help you establish a successful workplace stretching program.

  • Measure and provide feedback. Evaluate employees’ shoulder rotation, hamstring flexibility, and trunk rotation before the program begins, and compare their results to averages for their age and gender. Periodic reassessment can help them see their improvement.
  • Increase the challenge. As employees improve their flexibility and range of motion, the exercises in a stretching program should become more difficult; try for 3-month intervals. Not only will this encourage employees to keep improving their fitness, it will also stave off the boredom that can ensue when people repeat an exercise routine.
  • Make it mandatory. If you make stretching part of your voluntary wellness program, you may get limited participation. But stretching is value-neutral—it’s not likely to be seen as punitive or discriminatory, like weight-control programs or some other wellness initiatives—so you can require workers to stretch before their shift, during required “stretch breaks,” and at the end of their shift in order to ensure that they receive the benefits of stretching.

OSHA’s New Reporting and Recordkeeping Rule Goes into Effect on January 1, 2015


On September 11, 2014, the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) announced a final rule which updates the reporting and recordkeeping requirements for injuries and illnesses, found at 29 C.F.R. 1904. The rule goes into effect on January 1, 2015.

Changes to recordkeeping requirements

Under OSHA’s recordkeeping regulation, certain covered employers are required to prepare and maintain records of serious occupational injuries and illnesses using the OSHA 300 Log. However, there are two classes of employers that are partially exempt from routinely keeping injury and illness records:

  • Employers with 10 or fewer employees at all times during the previous calendar year; and
  • Establishments in certain low-hazard industries.

The new rule maintains the exemption for employers with fewer than 10 employees. However, the new rule has an updated list of industries that will be partially exempt from keeping OSHA records. The previous list of partially exempt industries was based on the old Standard Industrial Classification (SIC) system and injury and illness data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) from 1996, 1997, and 1998. The new list of partially exempt industries in the updated rule is based on the North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) and injury and illness data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) from 2007, 2008, and 2009. As a result, many employers who were once exempted from OSHA’s recordkeeping requirements are now required to keep records. A list of newly covered industries can be found at

Changes to the reporting requirements

In addition to revising the recordkeeping requirements, the new rule expands the list of severe injuries and illnesses that employers must report to OSHA. Under the previous rule, employers were required to report the following events to OSHA:

  • All work-related fatalities.
  • All work-related hospitalizations of three or more employees.

Under the new rule, employers must report the following events to OSHA:

  • All work-related fatalities.
  • All work-related in-patient hospitalizations of one or more employees.
  • All work-related amputations.
  • All work-related losses of an eye.

For any fatality that occurs within 30 days of a work-related incident, employers must report the event within eight hours of finding out about it.

For any in-patient hospitalization, amputation, or eye loss that occurs within 24 hours of a work-related incident, employers must report the event within 24 hours of learning about it.

Employers do not have to report an event if the event:

  • Resulted from a motor vehicle accident on a public street or highway, except in a construction work zone; employers must report the event if it happened in a construction work zone.
  • Occurred on a commercial or public transportation system (airplane, subway, bus, ferry, street car, light rail, train).
  • Occurred more than 30 days after the work-related incident in the case of a fatality or more than 24 hours after the work-related incident in the case of an in-patient hospitalization, amputation, or loss of an eye.

Employers do not have to report an in-patient hospitalization if it was for diagnostic testing or observation only. An in-patient hospitalizationis a formal admission to the in-patient service of a hospital or clinic for care or treatment.

Employers do have to report an in-patient hospitalization due to a heart attack, if the heart attack resulted from a work-related incident.

What to report

Employers reporting a fatality, inpatient hospitalization, amputation, or loss of an eye to OSHA must report all of the following information:

  • The name of the establishment.
  • The location of the work-related incident.
  • The time of the work-related incident.
  • The type of reportable event (i.e., fatality, inpatient hospitalization, amputation, or loss of an eye).
  • The number of employees who suffered the event.
  • The names of the employees who suffered the event.
  • The contact person and his or her phone number.
  • A brief description of the work-related incident.

How to report

Employers can use the following three options to report an event:

  • Call the nearest OSHA Area Office during normal business hours.
  • Call the 24-hour OSHA hotline (800-321-OSHA or 800-321-6742).
  • Report an incident electronically (OSHA is developing a new means of reporting events electronically, which will be released soon and will be accessible on OSHA’s website).


It is recommended that employers familiarize themselves with the final rule and train personnel accordingly. All employers under OSHA jurisdiction, even those who are exempt from maintaining injury and illness records, are required to comply with the new severe injury and illness reporting requirements.


Home Is Where the Falls Are

According to the National Safety Council, when it comes to off-the-job safety, falls in the home are the second leading cause of accidental death in the community, surpassed only by car crashes.

Whether your employees fall and injure themselves on the job or fall and get hurt off-the job, the result is often the same—lost workdays that interfere with your production schedules and pain and suffering for the injured worker.

Here are some tips that would make a good short safety meeting to teach workers to prevent home falls.

Fall-Proof the Home on the Inside

There’s a lot workers can do to make their home environment safe from slips and falls. For example:

  • Clear up the clutter inside your home that could cause someone to trip and fall.
  • Keep electrical cords out of the path of foot traffic.
  • If possible, install railings on both sides of the stairs.
  • Never store any items on the stairs.
  • Secure area rugs with double-sided tape or rubber padding.
  • Increase lighting throughout the house.
  • Plug in nightlights in bedrooms, bathrooms, and hallways.
  • Use rubber mats in the bathtub and rubber-backed rugs on the bathroom floor.
  • Avoid floor wax cleaners.
  • Clean up spills immediately, whether they are greasy or just wet.
  • Be careful when using ladders for home fix-it jobs.

Fall-Proof the Home on the Outside

Likewise, there are several steps employees can take to safeguard the exterior of their homes

  • Install railings on outdoor stairs.
  • Add outdoor lighting at entryways and along walkways.
  • In winter, be sure to clear steps and sidewalks of snow and ice and use sand to improve foot traction.
  • Fill holes and depressions in the yard.

Take Extra Steps to Protect Children from Falls

Children are particularly vulnerable to home falls. Employees should take steps to prevent injuries. For example:

  • Never leave babies unattended on beds, changing tables, or even sofas.
  • Strap babies and toddlers in highchairs and strollers.
  • Install safety gates at the top of staircases and be sure to secure them to the wall.
  • Don't let children play in raised outdoor areas, such as fire escapes, balconies, high porches, or decks.
  • Move furniture, such as chairs, sofas, and beds, away from windows. Small children love to climb.
  • Keep windows closed and locked. For ventilation, open only those windows that children cannot reach. If you must open a low window, use window guards to prevent it from being opened wide.
  • Insist that children pick up their toys.

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