The cost of work-related injuries in the US is astounding. Businesses spend $30 billion every year on back injuries alone. The CDC, NIOSH, and OSHA have all been involved in helping improve onsite safety. This has been a significant and ongoing process. However, most Americans don’t only subject themselves to injuries at work. Activities at home greatly impact the likelihood of sustaining an injury both at home and on the job. If people truly want to live longer, more meaningful lives, they must also be conscientious of the things they do off the clock.
Injuries have broadly been categorized as either that which happens in one incident or that which happens over time. This is the difference between dropping a heavy object on one’s foot and developing Carpal Tunnel Syndrome. However, there are many injuries that are seemingly caused by one incident that actually result from damage caused over time. An example of this is someone who throws out his back picking up a box. Moving the box seems to be the culprit, but that person’s back had to be abused over the years to be susceptible to that injury. Chiropractic care and massage therapy are booming industries because these injuries happen all the time. Ignorance about what the body is doing day-to-day is the reason this happens. People spend so much time focusing on job safety that they forget to take care of themselves at home. Let’s look at a few ways this happens.
The same categories that jobs examine to improve safety will apply to at-home activities. These can be harmful either by themselves or in conjunction with career activities. Ergonomics is designed to minimize musculoskeletal injuries. Many of these injuries are those that develop over time. They are costly because in addition to ongoing treatment, people typically need to take time off of work or change jobs completely. Repetitive work is by far the most dangerous when it comes to these injuries, and specifically when the person is: using awkward postures; pinching, grasping, twisting, and turning; pushing and pulling; lifting and/or carrying heavy loads; and using static postures. Here are some common ways people engage in these repetitive movements at home:
- Gardening/lawn care
- Carrying a purse or bag
- Carrying/lifting a child
- DIY projects
- Moving items to and from storage
- Moving items to and from shelves
- Moving medium objects like snowblowers and lawn mowers
- Moving large objects like boats and campers
- Handling tools
- Working on vehicles
- Poor posture while sitting or resting (eating, watching TV, using a computer, playing video games)
- Poor sleeping posture
A person’s age is a major determining factor in these injuries, but not because of virility. Several factors affect the relationship between age and injury for people between 40 and 65 years old.
- Long-term wear and tear: obviously, the longer a person has been alive, the more he has worn his body down through work, play, home projects, helping others, raising children, and ingesting toxic food and beverages. The structure of the body depends on activity, rest, and nutrition. In general, the older you are, the more vulnerable you are to physical injury.
- Accumulation of belongings: people acquire stuff over time. The more stuff you have, the more space you need to store it. A person who has to maneuver around piles of storage or reach to access space on top of stacks is putting herself at more risk than a person who has less stuff to work around. Having a small pile of items in the basement is easier to access than boxes and loose items stored in a garage attic.
- Accumulation of interests: as people get older, they have different reasons for finding new activities – both social and solitary. You don’t have to be a football player to develop a chronic musculoskeletal injury. The more you do, the more the body is exposed to wear and tear, even if it’s being hunched over a desk doing precise work.
- Making more money: presumably, the longer you’ve worked, the more money you have to spend on items that you can break your back moving or repairing. People fresh out of college with entry-level jobs aren’t the biggest demographic to buy boats, trailers, ATVs, cabins, campers, home-improvement equipment, and the like. People have more money at ages when their bodies don’t heal as quickly and have been abused over the years.
Anyone who engages in activity at home would be wise to consider making some of the same ergonomic improvements made in the work force. If a person spends a lot of time at a counter, sink, or workbench, ensure that the height of the work space allows the most neutral working posture. If a person is regularly lifting or carrying objects, get a cart with wheels to transport items to and fro. If the person has to move heavy objects around – like a boat or equipment in a garage – invest in a battery-powered Load Mover to handle the task.