Stretch Breaks – Quick, Easy, and Essential

In yesterday’s Advisor, we told you about the legal and economic importance of implementing ergonomics policies and practices. Today our Safety Training Tips Editor explains the value of stretch breaks.

Did you know that stretching helps prevent MSDs? It’s true, and the Japanese have known it for years. Employees in many Japanese workplaces begin every day with a group stretch led by a supervisor. You can get your employees stretching to prevent musculoskeletal disorders, too. In just minutes a day, a few simple exercises that stretch muscles and tendons can put an end to many of those costly workplace sprains, strains, and pains. 
Teach these head-to-toe stretches. Train employees to use the following quick and easy stretching exercises before they start work—and periodically during the day—to keep their bodies flexible and their muscles relaxed while they work.

Neck stretches:
• Lower head toward the chest, stretch neck gently, and raise head slowly.
• Turn head gently from side to side.
• Tilt head slowly first toward one shoulder, then the other, then backward.

Shoulder stretches:
• Shrug shoulders and roll them forward and back.
• With elbows out, move arms back to bring shoulder blades together.
• Reach arms overhead, stretch, and bend gently from side to side.

Arm and wrist stretches:
• Place arms out in front of body. Lace fingers together and rotate hands so that palms are facing out. Straighten elbows and push palms gently away from body for a few seconds.
• Place arms out in front of body. Turn wrists so that palms turn out. Then turn wrists back so that palms turn in.
• Place arms out in front of body. Bend wrists up so that palms face out and hold for a few seconds. Then bend wrist down so that palms face in and hold for a few seconds.

Hand stretches:
• Make a fist and then extend and stretch your fingers.
• Touch thumb to little finger and hold for a few seconds.

Lower back stretches:
• Stand with knees slightly bent and place hands on lower back just above hips. Gently bend backwards (just a little!).

Leg stretches:
• Sit in a chair, raise each leg in turn out in front (parallel to the floor), and hold for a few seconds. Then alternate.

Why It Matters…

  • The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported over half a million workplace sprains, strains, and tears in one recent year.

  • Collectively, U.S. employers shell out billions of dollars every year in medical costs, disability payments, and lost productivity because of workplace MSDs.

  • The most common injuries affect the back and trunk, followed by arms, hands, legs, and feet.
    Simple stretching exercises performed before work and periodically during the day can prevent many of these injuries.


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