Interim NIOSH Training for Emergency Responders: Reducing Risks Associated with Long Work Hours

“During Deepwater Horizon, I was on one of those plastic tables with a folding chair for weeks on end using my laptop. I got pain in my neck and shoulders that lasted for 2 weeks after I returned.”
– Quote from a Deepwater Horizon Responder

Prevent Injuries to Muscles and Joints

Longer time spent on physical demands and reduced recovery time are associated with working long hours.

Working continuously for long hours puts you at higher risk for pain or discomfort in these body areas:

  • Upper extremities (hands, arms)
  • Lower extremities (feet, knees, hips)
  • Neck, shoulders, and back

Physical demands, such as lifting and working in awkward postures, place additional stress on your muscles and joints.

In emergency settings, work stations may be temporary with no consideration for ergonomics, leading to awkward postures that are fatiguing.

Consider establishing preventive measures early in the deployment.

  • Modify or redesign tasks, tools, equipment, and your workstation/area if possible. See OSHA guidance for setting up a computer workstation. https://www.osha.gov/SLTC/etools/computerworkstations/index.htmlexternal icon
  • Frequently take a few moments to stretch and move.
  • Vary your posture every hour. Walk around for 5 min after performing a stationary desk task continuously for one hour. While sitting, keep the back and neck straight.
  • Take additional corrective action if symptoms occur.

Page 32 of 48

Page last reviewed: April 1, 2020