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Overexertion Causing Secondary Injury

Ohio AgrAbility Fact Sheet Series
Agriculture and Natural Resources
S. De​e Jepsen, Assistant Professor, State Safety Leader, Agricultural Safety and Health, Food, Agricultural and Biological Engineering, The Ohio State University
Kent McGuire, Ohio AgrAbility Program Coordinator, Agricultural Safety and Health, Food, Agricultural and Biological Engineering, The Ohio State University
Danielle Poland, Student Intern, Agricultural Safety and Health, Food, Agricultural and Biological Engineering, The Ohio State University

Approximately 25 percent of all work place injuries in Ohio result from overexertion caused by lifting, pulling, or pushing objects. Overexertion is spraining a ligament or straining a tendon or a muscle and occurs when the amount of work attempted exceeds the limits of the body parts doing the work. People with a preexisting condition, limited mobility, or aging limitations are more prone to overexertion injuries. In some cases individuals will overuse one body part to compensate for the limitation of another body part.

Overexertion injury is likely to occur in four ways.A man holding his back with his hand,

  1. High force demands. This can happen when lifting, pushing, pulling, carrying, gripping, and using tools.
  2. Awkward or stationary posture. This can occur when bending, twisting, reaching, and kneeling.
  3. Repetitive movements or actions. Doing the same motion repeatedly without taking a few small rest breaks can cause this.
  4. All other overexertion hazards. This includes contact stress, hand-arm vibration, whole-body vibration, hammering with hand, and working in cold temperatures or hot environments.

The best way to prevent an overexertion injury is to work through the task in your head to figure out the way to best perform the work with the least amount of energy and then follow through with the plan by taking necessary precautions. A major precaution includes using proper lifting guidelines.

  • Get a good grip. Grasp the load firmly. Use gloves if they allow for a better grip. 
  • Get a good footing. Center body weight to provide a powerful line of thrust and good balance.
  • Keep it close. Grasp the load firmly and lift towards the belt buckle. Hold the load close to the body to avoid putting pressure on the back.
  • Lift smoothly. Raise, carry, and lower the load smoothly. Never jerk a load.
  • Avoid twisting. If turning is required while lifting or carrying a load, turn the feet and body instead of twisting the back.
  • Push. Push rather than pull the load.

Some Other Guidelines to Reduce the Risks of Overexertion Injuries:

  • Ask for help when moving heavy objects.
  • Use material handling devices, carts, or hand-trucks to move heavy items.
  • Plan a route when moving items. The route should be free from slip or trip hazards.
  • Use tools with easy to use handles or grips and have vibration-reducing features.
  • Reduce total exposure to vibration by alternating between tasks that use vibrating tools and tasks with non-powered tools.
  • Establish a suitable working height depending on the type of work being done.
  • Utilize stools and anti-fatigue matting at work stations for tasks with prolonged standing.
  • Place materials used often between waist and shoulder height.
  • Place less frequently used materials in less desirable locations, such as on the top shelf.
  • Utilize different tasks to a job to increase a variety of physical movements, in an effort to prevent repetitive motion injuries.
  • Use kneepads while kneeling or padded gloves when lifting to reduce contact stress over long periods of time.
  • Utilize independent suspension seats/swivel seats in tractors to help absorb shock and vibration or reduce continuous twisting.
  • Know your limits and respect them. Listen to your body when it tells you to stop.


This fact sheet was reviewed by Karen Mancl, PhD, Professor, Food, Agricultural and Biological Engineering, The Ohio State University; Josh Svarda, Program Coordinator, Easter Seals Work Resource Center.


Division of Occupational Safety and Health. (n.d.). Preventing Overexertion Injuries. [PowerPoint Slides]. Washington State Department of Labor and Industries.

McGuire, K. (2016). Caught in or Caught Between Objects. Agricultural Safety and Health Program, The Ohio State University Extension.

Ohio State University Extension. (2007). Tailgate Safety Training for Landscaping and Horticultural Services. College of Food, Agriculture, and Environmental Science, The Ohio State University.

The Easter Seal Society. (n.d.). Safety Tips for Farming with a Back Injury or Back Problem. Iowa's Farm Family Rehabilitation Management Program, University of Iowa.

About AgrAbility Based Fact Sheets
These fact sheets were developed to promote success in agriculture for Ohio's farmers and farm families coping with a disability or long-term health condition. AgrAbility offers information and referral materials such as this fact sheet, along with on-site assessment, technical assistance, and awareness in preventing secondary injuries. Fact sheets were developed with funding from NIFA, project number OHON0006.

Originally posted Mar 21, 2011.