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Five Solutions to Ease the Strain of Overhead Work

Tech Tips - Nov 19

Five Solutions to Ease the Strain of Overhead Work

JLG Industries, Inc.
World-leading access equipment manufacturer
McConnellsburg, PA

Some jobs, like drilling, finishing drywall or repairing HVAC systems, require workers to reach up with one or both arms raised above their shoulders and their heads tilted back to see what they’re doing. Working overhead in this position for a sustained period can lead to muscle and joint injuries, but there are ways to ease the strain for workers.


Risks of Prolonged Overhead Work

There are several reasons workers may struggle to do their jobs safely and productively when completing tasks overhead. In some cases, their vision may be obstructed, making it difficult for them to see the work. They may have trouble positioning a tool because their arms are in an awkward position. Unstable footing can also put workers at a higher risk of falls.

Overhead work has the potential to put stress on the shoulders and neck, particularly if workers hold tools or materials above shoulder height, or if they twist their body to access work while their arms are raised. Injuries are also more likely if they use forceful, repetitive movements, or if they are required to lift and hold heavy materials above their heads.

Safer Solutions for Overhead Work

While overhead work can’t be eliminated from most jobs, it’s possible to complete these tasks in a way that lowers the strain on workers’ shoulders, necks and arms. Depending on the work to be done, there are several solutions that either reduce how long the body is exposed to this strain or eliminate other potential safety risks to increase productivity.

  1. Change Work Processes: Some work methods take less time, requiring workers to reach overhead for a shorter period. Evaluate your processes and identify opportunities to change the steps or the materials you’re using to reduce the overhead work that’s needed.
  2. Modify Tools: There are many modified tools available that eliminate the need for workers to raise their arms. Bit extensions for drills and screw guns are one example. These allow workers to hold tools at waist or shoulder level rather than above their heads while completing tasks.
  3. Use Safer Equipment: Whether you’re lifting people or materials, mechanical lifts are preferable to climbing ladders or manually lifting objects. Low-level access lifts are specifically designed to bring workers closer to the job and make it easier for them to work 360° around with both hands.
  4. Establish New Work Rules: If you can’t eliminate overhead tasks from a job, set rules that limit the amount of time workers do them. Encourage frequent breaks and require that workers use safer work practices and proper equipment.
  5. Provide Training: Train workers in ergonomics with a focus on overhead work. A simple training can help workers feel confident in identifying potential problems and finding effective solutions to reduce the strain on their bodies.

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