According to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) the average lost time knee injury costs more than $13,000. Prepatellar bursitis, a painful swelling of the fluid sack over the kneecap, is one of the most common injuries especially for those employees who spend a lot of time kneeling, squatting, crouching or working on their hands and knees. Often known as miner’s knee, general symptoms include swelling, pain and warmth in the knee joint and difficulty bending the knee.
Here are some suggestions for preventing knee injuries while at work:
Avoid twisting the knee.
Twisting the knee joint while it is bent increases the risk of injury. Observe your employees while working. If they’re twisting their knee joint while it’s bent to do a job, is there a way they could reposition themselves or the item they are working on to keep from twisting the knee joint while bent? Perhaps raise the item off the floor so the employee does not have to kneel. Keep tools and parts nearby so the employee is not twisting to reach tools, etc. Sit rather than kneel or squat when possible.
Workers who kneel or squat for extended periods place a lot of pressure on their knee joints. It is important to relieve that pressure by moving the knee joint through its full range of motion by bending, stretching and flexing the knee and leg at regular intervals. This activity helps the knee’s shock absorbing tissues to better absorb synovial fluid, improving lubrication of the joint and reducing the risk of injury.
Use of well designed knee pads is another pressure relieving strategy. Like other PPE, knee pads work best when the worker can choose from a selection of pads to find the most comfortable pair with the best fit. Knee pads help distribute the pressure across a larger surface of the knee. They are particularly important when kneeling on hard or uneven surfaces. Floor mats can also be used to provide cushioning for some jobs. Encourage good housekeeping on the job so employees do not kneel down on an object or slip on water or oil and twist their knee. Encourage employees not to jump from trucks or higher landings and to wear good quality shoes to help cushion the knees.
Dirty clothing and knee pads can result in skin infections for workers who spend a lot of time on their knees. And skin infections directly over the kneecap can cause infections of the bursa or cartilage in the knee. Remind these workers to keep their clothes and PPE clean.
Exercise and weight control.
Strengthening the leg muscles has been shown to help prevent knee injuries along with reducing excess body weight.
Smith-Peabody-Stiles supports efforts to make the workplace a safer and more productive environment. For concerns or questions about safety issues contact Wendy Light or Jim Peabody at SPS, 1-800-467-6645. We welcome your calls and inquiries.