Some workplace accidents happen suddenly and without warning, such as when a machine malfunctions or a worker slips and falls. Fortunately, many workplace injuries can be prevented by understanding the effects of overexertion. Overexertion occurs when a worker expends too much energy over an extended period of time. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) maintains that overexertion is the leading cause of non-fatal work injury reported in the United States. In order to improve these statistics and lessen the likelihood of overexertion in the workplace, it is important that workers understand the signs and symptoms that they are in danger.
During physical exertion, the heart pumps faster thus requiring higher oxygen levels. In response to oxygen depletion, muscles fill with lactic acid. The resulting soreness and burning experienced by workers who carry, hold, throw or pull heavy objects is indicative of muscle overuse. When these same workers push through their discomfort, it can result in delayed onset muscle soreness which can, in turn, prevent them from performing their job duties. Similarly, overexertion can exacerbate preexisting conditions such as tendinitis or stress fractures.
Pain is an indicator of overexertion that is easy to identify. However, every individual perceives pain differently. In some cases, overexertion may be less obvious, though it is no less dangerous. Chest pain, difficulty breathing, and dizziness are all indicative of overexertion. When a worker who is exhibiting these symptoms is not given adequate time to rest, their physical distress can lead to a heart attack.
Few workers are more at risk of suffering from overexertion than those who must work long hours under the sun and in warm temperatures. These conditions can quickly cause dehydration, which is itself a form of overexertion. When allowed to persist, dehydration can cause muscle cramps, disorientation, fainting, and even shock. As a result of these risk factors, certain workers are more at risk of experiencing an overexertion injury than others. These occupations include:
Most overexertion injuries will involve the muscles of the back, including strains and pulls. Overexertion in extreme cases can result in herniated or ruptured discs. According to the BLS, most acute overexertion injuries are caused by lifting objects that are too heavy; and men are more likely than women to suffer from overexertion. Frequently, overexertion can lead to secondary injuries if a worker collapses and falls.
Although employers may encourage or pressure employees to work through pain and discomfort, workers should listen to their bodies. If overexertion is suspected, workers should always take a break, and if necessary, see a doctor as soon as possible. It is important to note however, that overexertion is not limited to extreme physical stress. Instead, overexertion can result from chronic overuse of any muscle or body part. Carpal tunnel syndrome and osteoarthritis are frequently caused by overexertion of the muscles and tendons of the hand and arm.
It can be difficult to establish that a worker is entitled to Workers’ Compensation benefits in connection with an overexertion injury. The Philadelphia Workers’ Compensation lawyers of Gross & Kenny, LLP, have a demonstrated history of succeeding where others have failed. If overexertion is preventing you or a loved one from working, contact us at 267-589-0090 or 215-512-1500, or complete our online form to schedule a free initial consultation at our Philadelphia offices, where we represent clients throughout Pennsylvania.