Common Causes of Injury in the Oil and Gas Industry – Sprains and Strains

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Strains and sprains are a frequent result of work with heavy and awkward loads at well sites. Injuries may not be fatal but can lead to long-term health issues if not prevented or properly treated.

A sprain is a stretch or tear of a ligament, the tough tissue that connects bones and supports the joints. You’re most likely to get a sprain in the wrist or ankle. Sprains cause pain, bruising, and swelling. You may have trouble moving the joint.

A strain is an injury to a muscle or tendon, the thick tissue that attaches muscles to bones. You’re most likely to get a strain in your back or hamstring muscles. Strains cause pain, weakness, swelling, and muscle cramps. You may have trouble moving the muscle.

Work tasks that require you to reach or stretch away from your body while handling materials can add excessive strain on the body. This happens when a posture or position distorts the spine from its natural curves, puts unbalanced pressure on the discs and can strain arm, leg or back tissues if held for any length of time.

What are some work situations that may put you in “awkward” positions?

  1. Jobs that require you to bend and reach to retrieve or place material.
  2. Overhead work.
  3. Tasks in confined or small spaces where there is a limited range of motion.
  4. Jobs on ladders or work platforms where you may over-reach.
  5. Repetitive tasks that require twisting of the back such as loading or handling material 90o to 180o from the starting point

How can you avoid injury when working in awkward positions?

  • Take the time to stretch and warm muscles up prior to activities.
  • When working overhead, stand on steady ground. Keep your back posture in its natural curve to avoid uneven spinal loading.
  • If working on the floor, avoid bending over to work. Squat down using your leg muscles and wear knee pads if you must kneel.
  • Don’t hold an awkward position for too long. Pause often to stretch and straighten out.
  • Position yourself as close as possible to the job, avoid overreaching when working on ladders or scaffolding.
  • Never lift heavy loads that are far from your body’s center of gravity. Get help in such cases.
  • Position your work below the shoulder and above the knees to minimize over-reaching. Use mechanical lifting aids and equipment, and limit manual lifting as much as possible.
  • When manual lifting is required, use proper lifting techniques (e.g., knees bent with back straight).
  • Limit jerking actions when lifting. Jerking actions often result in sudden load increases that can result in strain and sprain injuries to the body.
  • Seek assistance when moving awkward and heavy equipment, such as irons, guards, and covers.
  • Avoid prolonged repetitive motions that wear down the body. For those jobs that require repetitive motions, consider a frequent rotation of personnel. Understanding the causes of workplace injuries such as sprains and strains can help you avoid the pain of dealing with one. Please take the time to assess each situation for the circumstances listed above and follow the recommended steps.


KEMI does not assume liability for the content of information contained herein. Safety and health remain your responsibility. This information is to be used for informational purposes only and not intended to be exhaustive or a substitute for proper training, supervision or manufacturers’ instructions/recommendations. KEMI, by publication of this information, does not assume liability for damage or injury arising from reliance upon it. Compliance with this information is not a guarantee or warranty that you will be in conformity with any laws or regulations nor does it ensure the absolute safety of any person, place or object, including, but not limited to, you, your occupation, employees, customers or place of business.