There is much written about workplace ergonomics, specifically dealing with risk factors that may result in musculoskeletal injuries, including repetitive strains, which account for almost 50% of workplace injuries in Manitoba (Safe Work MB). Less is written about the ergonomics of housework that present similar risk factors and may lead to injuries preventing you from doing the job of living.
Think about the tasks you do during your workday, the positions you assume and the strength requirements you meet in your daily work tasks. If you are engaging in activities and tasks at home that involve the same positions, and present similar strength requirements, your risk for injury is increased.
Consider a person who’s job is mainly computer based, involving static seated positioning, requiring a flexed neck to read documents on the desk, involving repetitive typing and filing. They should be aware that exposing themselves to household tasks with these physical demands, such as spending extended time on the home computer, flexing their neck when standing to do dishes at the sink and over the counter for meal preparation, scrubbing to cleaning the bathtub, etc will present similar ergonomic risk factors.
Reduce your exposure to ergonomic risks at home by:
1. Limit or break up the activities you engage in at home that require the same awkward postures, repetitive movements and forces on your body that you are exposed to in your workday.
2. Have family members take turns doing more physically demanding tasks by creating a sign up chart so everyone knows their tasks for the week.
3. Try not to do all your chores in one afternoon and instead spread them out over the week.
4. Build in stretch breaks to tasks that require awkward postures like bending, twisting, reaching, etc.
5. If grocery shopping and lugging bags from the car puts you at greater risk of injury because you do similar physically demanding work, consider purchasing a grocery deliver service.
6. When taking out the garbage try filling two smaller bags instead of one big one to carry and distribute the weight evenly between both sides of your body.
7. Purchase a long handled dust pan and use a Swiffer wet jet instead of bending down if you have symptoms in your low back.
8. You can use a swiffer wetjet in your bathroom to clean your tub and avoid awkward twisting and bending needed to scrub the tub.
9.On your days off try to set goals that will allow for rest time so you can recharge and have energy to get your list of chores completed.
10. Remember to use proper body mechanics when lifting, bending and reaching during your chores to protect your back and limit your exposure to ergonomic risks at home.
Mrnie Courage, OT Reg. (MB)