Safety Culture: Stretching to Prevent Strains and Sprains - The Edge from the National Association of Landscape Professionals

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Safety Culture: Stretching to Prevent Strains and Sprains

Strains and sprains are common injuries that can occur in the landscape industry, but they can also be easily prevented with simple stretching techniques.

Work-related musculoskeletal disorders (WMSDs) account for more than 30 percent of all nonfatal occupational injury and illness cases each year. Employers pay $20 billion annually in direct workers’ compensation costs.

This can be mitigated by conducting daily morning stretching. Stretching improves muscle elasticity and leads to increased muscle control, flexibility and range of motion.

Not only does having a morning stretch program help prepare your crew members’ bodies for the day, but it also allows supervisors to identify if any team member is struggling or showing discomfort with a certain stretch. Addressing these early tells can prevent a mild strain from evolving into a permanent injury.

If you are starting a mobility and stretch routine from scratch, seek out the expertise of those familiar with body mechanics and exercise program creation. Physical therapists and other credentialed organizations can analyze the tasks being performed at your company and create a program that is tailored to your team.

There is no one-size-fits-all stretching program as each workplace and workforce is unique. While back injuries may be more common, it’s important to not neglect any muscle groups from your stretching program.

When implementing the program, make sure you are allotting enough time for the stretching to be effective. Rushing through will not provide any benefits. Leadership buy-in and being consistent will help employees accept the importance of morning stretching.

This stretching time can also be used to boost company culture. For instance, at LandCare’s locations, they welcome all their new team members during their Stretch & Flex sessions in the morning. Other landscape companies take this time to share a motivational message or play music.

“There also may be a psychological benefit at work in a stretching program,” says Donald Graham, M.S., WSO-CSE. “Company managers and workers together in space doing a common activity can create bonding and increase workplace morale. This semi-social grouping or bonding in the workplace creates the perception of caring and support felt by employees from management.”

Don’t be afraid to reevaluate your stretching program from time to time, especially if you’ve added new tasks. The Greenery, Inc. has a doctor visit occasionally to ensure their team is stretching properly.

Also, encourage your crews to stretch throughout the day and after work to prevent muscles and joints from seizing up.

Safety is critical in our industry. Take advantage of NALP’s safety resources and participate in NALP’s Safe Company Program.

Jill Odom

Jill Odom is the senior content manager for NALP.