This is the second in a series of four injury prevention campaigns that will focus on the most common types of injuries in the forest industry. An important part of any safety program is a focus on the high risk activities that may result in major injuries. However, to have a successful and well-rounded program, attention must also be paid to those less severe injuries that occur more frequently.
Overexertion injuries fit this description. A strained back or sprained ankle is not a life threatening injury but they do happen often and can keep you away from work for long periods of time. Think about how many people you know that have bad backs or an injured knee. It doesn’t take long to realize that these injuries are very common and deserve some attention to reduce their occurrence. If you have ever experienced a severe sprain or back strain; you realize that these injuries can reduce your mobility, prevent you from working and decrease your overall quality of life.
When we move into the hot summer season, it is time to start thinking about heat stress injuries. Injuries such as heat cramps, heat exhaustion and heat stroke will also be discussed in this resource package.
Overexertion injuries are commonly referred to strains and sprains and include injuries to the major joints and back. Back strains are the most common type of overexertion injury.
Truck drivers, fallers and tree planters are three groups in our industry that experience a high overexertion injury rate. If we look at all the types of injuries experienced by log truck drivers, back strain is the most frequent. Fallers see a lot of knee problems, back strains and neck issues from constantly looking up. Tree planters and silviculture workers often experience strains and sprains due to the repetitive nature of their work. Graphs showing injury rates for each of these occupations are presented later on in this resource package.
Overexertion injuries can occur in deceptively simple ways:
The goal of this injury prevention package is to describe types of overexertion injuries, create understanding on how they occur, and provide resources for companies to use to in their safety programs and ultimately reduce the occurrence of these types of injuries.
Develop a training program targeted at reducing overexertion injuries.
Use the Powerpoint presentation at your next meeting to increase worker’s awareness about overexertion injuries.
Develop an internal safety memo or bulletin for your workplace.
Provide a topic and background information for a safety meeting, crew talk or tailgate meeting. The injury rate graphs should get a good conversation going amongst your group.
Put the poster up (see image on introduction page) in the scale shack to increase driver’s awareness of back injuries. Contact the Council to order the free posters.
Use the pieces of information that are most useful to you:
-Look at your company’s close call and incident records. Have there been reported overexertion injuries or close calls? If so, look for common factors in the incidents and develop some corrective actions to reduce the occurrence. If these types of overexertion injuries have not been reported, do a little more research. Are they not reported because they didn't occur or were they just not reported?
-If your company has challenges with incident reporting, use this overexertion information as a starting point to engage workers in a conversation about it. Many workers don’t report the minor strains and sprains because they don’t understand the importance of the information, don’t have the time, or can’t be bothered. Having a conversation about the high frequency of overexertion injuries and the consequences of leaving them untreated may lead to better incident reporting.
-Challenge your first aiders with a drill that focuses on treating strains, sprains and heat stress injuries. Make the drill as realistic as possible in order to discover any weaknesses in your Emergency Response Plans.
-Not sure how this information applies to your company? Contact the BC Forest Safety Council and we can help you.