Everyone knows proper stretch breaks are important. But few people take them with regularity, and almost no one does as frequently as they should. Which is a shame, because providing muscles with adequate rest will prevent repetitive strain and is a key feature of long-term back health.
Fortunately, one small tweak to safety reporting can make a huge difference. It doesn’t even have to be a formal change so you can start doing it right away. The adage “what gets measured gets done” applies to almost everything, from corporate key performance metrics to weight loss. It also works for stretch breaks.
How many stretch breaks should employees take in a week? It’s not too hard to calculate once you know that breaks are recommended every two hours or so, depending on the nature of the work.
Now ask yourself how many stretch breaks your employees actually took. If you’re like most OHS professionals, this isn’t something you keep track of. But you probably should.
Tracking how often employees take a break to stretch will not only make it easier to get workers to stretch more, but it also communicates to employees and frontline supervisors (and to yourself too) that it’s an important issue.
There’s no need for a complicated reporting system or rigorous analysis. Just make note of the weekly stretch goal and then start tallying how many times it actually happens. If there are supervisors who are directly responsible for this type of thing, ask them to count how many stretch breaks they provided throughout the day and then let you know at the end of each shift.
It doesn’t need to be a time-consuming process. The goal is simply to start quantifying how much stretching actually occurs. The simple fact that you’re now measuring performance on this issue should lead to more stretching and better back health (not to mention other muscles) as a result.
Keep in mind that not all stretch breaks are created equal. Sitting and doing nothing could do more harm than good because the muscles in the back could stiffen, leading to a higher risk of strains when the break is over. Actively stretching will keep muscles loose and counteract repetitive strain.
Stretching is only one component of back safety. Check out this free guide on preventing back injuries to help you protect employees’ backs and fight back pain in your company’s workforce.