Ergonomic Risk Factor 6: MECHANICAL COMPRESSION

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Welcome to our next installment in the Ergonomic Biomechanical Risk Factor blog series. Today I want to give you an overview of risk number 6: MECHANICAL COMPRESSION.

Mechanical compression refers to the impact of external forces on body tissues. When external force is applied to the body the blood supply under the force is occluded. This results in fewer nutrients to the area and a build up of waste products, as the blood is not circulating properly. This can cause injury in itself, such as pressure injuries and it can predispose the area to future injury due to the decrease health of the tissues.

Some examples of mechanical compression and the injuries resulting from it include:

  • Using pliers
    • Places mechanical compression over the thenar muscles and carpal tunnel
    • Compresses the median nerve
    • Can result in carpal tunnel syndrome or median neuropathy
  • Resting elbows on chair arms
    • Places mechanical compression on the cubital tunnel
    • Compresses the ulnar nerve
    • Can result in cubital tunnel syndrome or ulnar neuropathy
  • Resting wrists on table while typing
    • Places mechanical compression over the carpal tunnel
    • Compresses the median nerve
    • Can result in carpal tunnel syndrome or median neuropathy

Workers should be aware of the compressive forces applied by external means and work to minimise these. For example:

  • Reduce pressure wherever possible and don’t rest your body against things
  • Use hand tools with longer, softer, round handles
  • Never use your hand as a hammer

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