Warehouse workers face numerous safety hazards on the job, and repetitive strain injuries are near the top of the list. While you can’t prevent all injuries, there are steps you can take to minimize the risks. Ergonomic workstations are an excellent start, but for even more protection, consider implementing mandatory stretch breaks. Here’s why and how.
What Are The Benefits of Stretch Breaks at Work?
Why Add Stretch Breaks?
Many of the most common injuries in a warehouse are caused or worsened by tight, weak muscles. Stretch breaks have three key benefits for warehouse workers:
- Reducing neck and shoulder pain: Most warehouse workers spend the day looking down. This can cause cramping in the shoulder and neck muscles, leading to pain and restricted movement. Stretch breaks help employees loosen those muscles, reducing the risk for injury.
- Minimizing repetitive strain: Doing the same thing over and over again causes the muscles to build unevenly. Those that are regularly used grow stronger, but those that are not in use grow weaker. These imbalances can lead to a long list of repetitive strain injuries. Stretching the muscles helps bring them back into balance, making injuries less likely to occur.
- Increasing focus: It’s human nature to zone out when doing the same set of tasks for 8 or 10 hours in a row. But zoning out can lead to mistakes that increase safety hazards. A stretch break is also a reset for the mind, allowing workers to return to their tasks with renewed focus.
How to Get Started
For your new stretch breaks to get the results you want, you’ll need to tailor them to your specific warehouse. Here are some tips.
Focus on the actual tasks: If no one is doing detail work with their fingers, there’s no need for finger stretches. Go through the tasks your employees actually do, and research stretches to loosen the overused muscles. Consider tailoring the stretching program for each group of employees.
Make room: Create a safe area with plenty of room to spread out. Bumping into each other, or into items on the warehouse floor, could actually cause injuries rather than preventing them.
Make it part of the safety plan: Some employees are likely to be skeptical at first. Explain why you’re implementing this program, and make it a core part of your written safety plan. If you want to allow workers to opt-out, have them sign a written opt-out statement that clearly states that they’re opting out of a recommended safety protocol.