DEPARTMENTS
ERGONOMICS

Scott Schneider, CIH, is director of Occupational Safety and Health for the Laborers’ Health and Safety Fund of North America. He can be reached at (202) 628-5465 or schneider@lhsfna.org.

Mary O’Reilly, PhD, CIH, CPE, is adjunct faculty at the SUNY School of Public Health and Empire State College School of Business, and Principal, ARLS Consultants, Inc. She can be reached at (315) 682-3064 or moreilly@albany.edu.

In recent years, many companies have introduced stretching programs for employees as a means of reducing musculoskeletal injuries. Stretching programs seem particularly popular in industries like construction, where the work is physically demanding and workers are at high risk of musculoskeletal injuries.

Despite these risks, few construction companies have developed or implemented comprehensive ergonomic programs. Some have instead implemented pre-work stretching programs. While these programs may have ancillary benefits, there is little evidence that they prevent injuries.
Is stretching the new “back belt,” an unproven solution that may not be effective? A review of the research is inconclusive. Results are often difficult to interpret due to less-than-ideal study design and the questionable influence of other variables. And, as with many ergonomic interventions, some workers seem to be at increased risk while others seem relatively resistant to injury regardless of preventive strategies.
Is Stretching the New “Back Belt”?
Questioning the Benefits of Stretching Programs
BY SCOTT SCHNEIDER AND MARY O’REILLY
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