The Ergonomic Risks of Sweeping
By Bryan Picco, AEP
Every 4 years during the early winter months, millions of people around the world eagerly anticipate the Winter Olympics and flock to their televisions to cheer on their countries’ athletes. It is also the only time that we see some of the more “unusual” sporting events in action. When else do we get a chance to see the athletic prowess of our lugers or spend the better part of an afternoon watching the biathlon?
One such sport that gets play during the Olympics is curling. No other sport combines the tactical planning of chess, the reading of playing surfaces like golf, along with surgical precision (keep in mind, I am a bit biased because I have curled since I was 8). What viewers may fail to realize is that sweeping the ice (also known as brushing) is physically demanding and has high ergonomic risk. Look at the opening frames of this video from the World Curling Federation that talks about the act of sweeping and how strenuous it is. You can see all three injury risk factors: force (pushing the broom into the ice), frequency (repetitive awkward sweeping motions), and posture (the curlers are hunched over and squatting).
Curling broom manufactures have taken great strides to make sweeping more effective with less effort. Brooms once made with corn straw are now composed of synthetic pivoting heads. Additionally, carbon fiber handles make the brooms easier to handle and withstand breaking. Opportunities for better equipment also exist in industrial settings. Our workers are industrial athletes and we should provide them with the tools and equipment to work injury-free and succeed in all work environments.