NOVember 2015                                                                FRANÇAIS

Sprains, strains, and tears are the number one cause of time loss injuries for workers across the Northwest Territories and Nunavut - by far. In 2014, these accounted for 26% of claims - meaning they accounted for more than 1 in 4 claims last year - and in total, cost Northern employers and the Northern compensation systems $3,550,000 in that year alone.

Here's what else we know:
  • 1,073 sprain, strain, and tear injury claims received payment in 2014.
  • The most common cause of injury? Overexertion in lifting
    (20.23%), followed by injuries caused by bending, climbing, crawling, reaching, and twisting (10.40%).
  • The most commonly injured body part was the lower back, followed by ankles and knees.
  • The most injury-prone month for sprains, strains, and tears was October.
But let's take a step back. What are sprains and strains?

A sprain is a tearing or stretching of ligaments - the bands of tissue in your joints that connect two bones together. Sprains most commonly occur in the ankle.

A strain is a tearing or stretching of muscles or tendons - the tissue that connects muscles to bones. Strains most commonly occur in the lower back.

What causes sprain and strain injuries?

We've already seen that overexertion is the most common cause of sprain, strain, and tear injuries, but there are also other reasons that factor in, such as:
  • Force - lifting, pushing, pulling, or carrying.
  • Posture - working in the same position for a long time with little or no movement, or bending or twisting in an awkward posture.
  • Repetition - performing the same movement over and over, with little to no time to recover.
  • Vibration - hand or arm vibration from holding a tool or equipment that vibrates continuously, or whole-body vibration from sitting or standing on equipment that vibrates.
  • Sudden movements - pivoting, reaching, slipping, or falling.
What are some symptoms we need to look for?

Some signs can include: aching, burning, or shooting pain; swelling or tenderness; bruising; muscle spasms; weakness; and a limited ability or inability to move the affected muscle.

If you find that walking causes discomfort or you cannot move the affected limb without pain, you should consult a healthcare practitioner.

What should you do as a Worker?

As a worker, you are required to understand and follow your safety program. Be aware of potential hazards in the workplace, and report any identified hazards immediately to your supervisor. Find ways to reduce or eliminate dangerous hazards in the workplace.

If you are injured, do not ignore your symptoms. It is to your benefit to recognize and report them as soon as possible. Early signs and symptoms may progress into conditions which can have long-term effects. 

Remember that sprain and strain injuries do not necessarily result in time lost from work. Speak to your employer to explore your work-to-recover options. There should be modified or alternative work duties you can still perform while you recover.

What are an Employer's responsibilities?

Have a safety and return to work (RTW) program. Offering modified or alternative work can help reduce costs and improve recovery. It is the employer's responsibility to train and alert their workers to any job-related hazards, and to seek out and identify any additional hazards that may lead to sprain and strain injuries. An employer should continually monitor the workplace to ensure that workers follow the proper safety procedures, and work with them to eliminate risk factors. Employers should also ensure their workers are reporting early symptoms or concerns.

If the worker visits a healthcare practitioner, request the functional abilities form so that you can determine what work duties are safe for the worker to perform.

It is best practice to review the workplace safety and RTW program regularly - not just for new workers, but for long-time workers as well - and to update it as necessary. By working together, employers and workers can maintain a workplace environment that is safe for all.

How can we prevent sprain and strain injuries?
  • Reduce the force required for the job. Examine the items you need to move or the movements involved in doing the job, and plan ahead to ensure you are not overexerting yourself.
  • Take your time with tasks - sudden or unexpected movements can bring about strains and sprain injuries. Do not rush, and pay attention to your surroundings. Make sure you have enough light to see what you are doing and where you are going. Slippery or uneven surfaces can lead to slips, trips, or falls.
  • Take advantage of the equipment and machinery offered in your workplace. Use carts, hoists, and mechanical equipment whenever possible to handle heavy materials. Ladders, work platforms, scissor lifts, and extension poles can reduce the need to reach overhead and overextend yourself, and can bring the work closer to you. Powered tools can reduce the force required for a task.
  • Work together: do not attempt to lift or carry large items or materials by yourself. Ask your colleagues to assist you. If you must lift and carry by yourself, carry a load that you can safely lift and maintain proper posture by keeping items close to your body to help reduce the strain on your joints.
  • Wear proper and appropriate footwear for your work. Keep one hand free to help balance or break a fall. If you work in an environment where you may walk or move around on a slippery or wet surface, make sure your employer invests in non-slip mats to prevent slip, trip, and fall accidents. Rubber mats offer traction and grip, and are easy to install.
  • Maintain good housekeeping practices in the workplace. Clear any cluttered areas, and clean and remove any spills as soon as you see them. Cover and protect from damage cables and cords that cross walkways.
  • Maintain good health, and warm up prior to physical activity to loosen your muscles and increase the range of motion in your joints. Take regular breaks to give your body time to recover.
Sprains and strains are preventable. Take appropriate measures to ensure a safe and healthy work environment. For more information, visit or and explore our Codes of Practice, Hazard Alerts, Safety Bulletins, and Posters.



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