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Overexertion In The Workplace – Causes, Symptoms, Prevention

Overexertion In The WorkplaceExertion by itself is not a bad thing. Pushing ourselves to the limit helps us grow physically and mentally. However, overexertion in the workplace can be counterproductive. Injuries often result when we push ourselves beyond our physical and mental capabilities to an extent where we can no longer cope with the stress.

If you have ever felt that you are just a hair away from collapsing where you stand or when you have worked unusually hard over a few days and felt that no amount of sleep can eliminate the tiredness of your muscles, you were most probably suffering from overexertion.

Causes And Symptoms Of Physical Overexertion At Work

Most commonly, physical overexertion in the workplace is caused by lifting, pulling or pushing objects that are larger or heavier than the body can handle. It may also be caused by performing the same movement over extended periods of time.

Subjecting the body to any of the above could result in sprains, strains or tears to muscles, tendons, and ligaments. The severity of these injuries varies depending on a combination of factors.

In most cases, the neck, knees, wrists, and back get injured due to the major role they play in moving or lifting objects. These injuries can be sustained immediately when a heavy object is lifted, or over a period of time due to repetitive motion where the specific body part doesn’t get sufficient time to recover from repeated stress.

The pain when such injuries are caused is most often acute, but it can be managed and reduced with preventative measures and proper medical treatment coupled with rest. However, if proper care is not taken and the working situation remains unchanged, there is a risk of the injury progressing and developing into a chronic condition such as osteoarthritis, carpal tunnel syndrome or repetitive stress injury.

How Physical Overexertion Injuries In The Workplace Can Be Prevented

Workers are employed to perform specific tasks in the workplace and the risk of physical overexertion injuries is high in some of these tasks. If your role requires you to do a lot of heavy-lifting or to perform repetitive movements for long periods of time, there are some things you and your employer can do to minimise the risk of injuries inherent in that particular job.

Employers are required by law to provide relevant personal protection gear to all workers. This could mean completely different things depending on the job you are employed to do.

If your job involves extended hours of performing manual labour, your employer should provide you with the necessary protective equipment in addition to ensuring that you get frequent breaks so your body is not pushed beyond its limits. On your part, you must make sure that you make use of the provided supportive equipment and that you take breaks from your repetitive tasks.

Overexertion injuries are not limited only to workers who perform physically demanding jobs. Sitting at the computer for 8 -10 a day can put you at high risk for carpal tunnel syndrome as well as neck pain, backaches and eye strain, all of which are overexertion injuries. These can largely be avoided by ensuring that the workplace is ergonomically designed and that employees get sufficient breaks away from the computer.

Causes And Symptoms Of Mental Overexertion At Work

Some jobs are mentally demanding and can leave you feeling drained at the end of the day. This is commonly referred to as ‘burnout’. It occurs when all of your physical, mental and emotional resources have been used up.

As with most mental injuries, it is harder to see it coming as there are no visible indicators in the initial stages. The symptoms of mental overexertion develop and build slowly and only become evident when it reaches a severe stage.

While short-term mental overexertion can lead to irritability, mental fatigue and poor performance at work, long-term overexertion can lead to loss of memory and even depression.

How Mental Overexertion Injuries In The Workplace Can Be Prevented

Education for both employers and employees is the single most effective preventive strategy where mental overexertion in the workplace is concerned. Employers must ensure that work is assigned out fairly so that no one worker is shouldering all the responsibilities.

As an employee, you must learn to recognise the signs of impending burnout. If you are feeling more stressed out than usual and if those persistently high-stress levels are affecting your personal life, it may be time to re-assess your workload and your ability to handle it.

Fatigue As A Result Of Physical Or Mental Overexertion

Lack of sleep coupled with pushing yourself mentally and physically for extended periods can result in fatigue. It can be compared to burning a candle from both ends at the same time, where the burn time is obviously reduced.

Most of us tend to underestimate the devastating effects of fatigue. The truth is fatigue can have a domino effect on your physical and mental health. It affects your sleep, which can then cause irrationality, irritability, decreased cognitive function, dull reflexes, increased risk of accidents and mistakes, depression, increased blood pressure, arrhythmia, shortness of breath and dizziness.

Not a pretty picture at all.

Three of the most important things you can do to prevent fallout from fatigue are getting enough sleep, eating healthy meals and taking regular breaks.

  1. Getting enough sleep is crucial for your body and mind to get the rest they need after a demanding day at work. Make sure you get sufficient sleep.
  2. Eating healthy meals ensures that your body and mind get the nutrition they need to perform at peak efficiency.
  3. Last but certainly not least, take a break. Have you taken a break lately? If not, it may be time to take one. Taking regular breaks is more important than most of us realise. Without a break, you will soon be running on empty.

Taking a short break and getting away from it all or taking some time off to indulge in a favourite hobby may be all you need to feel recharged and refreshed. It’s much better to take a break from a demanding job rather than suffer overexertion in the workplace and be forced to stay away for a longer period of time.

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