U.S. Department of Labor
Process: Hot Work
Hazard: Improper Body Positioning
Most Prevalent Causes of Injuries Resulting from Improper Body Position
Awkward positions of the spine, bending over, working on one's knees, and working overhead are the most frequent causes of injuries resulting from poor body positioning to workers performing hot work operations. These injuries seldom result from a single traumatic incident. Instead they develop over time as a result of frequently placing the body or it's extremities in unusual positions for extended periods of time.
Awkward positions of the spine can often be avoided by placement of staging or work platforms to eliminate or reduce the amount of reaching, twisting, or bending required to access the work. Positioning of mobile work platforms, such as scissors lifts, is also important in reducing or eliminating the need for workers to assume awkward postures. In the photograph above, repositioning the scissors lift a little to the left would have eliminated the back strain experienced by this worker from bending sideways at the waist and maintaining that position while performing the hot work.
Working while bending over sometimes cannot be avoided. This posture compresses the spinal column and places strain on the lower back, which can lead to chronic back pain or a more significant back injury over time. In the photograph above, even though the welder is working in a fairly tight space there is sufficient room for him to reposition himself occasionally. Repositioning oneself may allow the lower back muscles to recover and reduce the risk of injury. The contact stress that results from working on the knees is also a frequent cause of injury. This problem is even more severe when kneeling on cold surfaces for extended periods. Wearing knee pads and occasional stretching will help provide relief.
Performing hot work overhead places strain on the muscles of the neck and shoulders and compresses the vertebrae in the neck. Muscles of the shoulders and arms as well as those of the neck which support the weight of the head, tend to tire very quickly when performing overhead work. Taking frequent, short breaks to allow for muscle recovery may prevent injury.