Above-Shoulder Work

Definition - What does Above-Shoulder Work mean?

Above-shoulder work involves performing tasks that requires the worker to raise the arms above shoulder height, resulting in the exertion of the flexors and rotator cuff. Prolonged or repetitive above-shoulder work is associated with an increased risk of musculoskeletal injury, particularly rotator cuff disorders. Above-shoulder work is also referred to as above shoulder work.

WorkplaceTesting explains Above-Shoulder Work

When engaging in above-shoulder work, the worker's arms are placed in an awkward posture, thereby creating a risk of musculoskeletal injury. When lifting an item above the shoulders, the worker must transfer the force of the item's weight from his her back muscles to the smaller, weaker shoulder muscles. The force required to lift an object above shoulder height is significantly greater than that required to carry or lift an item between waist and shoulder height.

These factors place strain on the muscles of the shoulder and arm. Above-shoulder work also causes compression of the shoulder joints. Lifetime exposure to above-shoulder work has been found to contribute to degenerative damage to the rotator cuff.

Poor work practices when performing above-shoulder work may result in accidental injuries to the arm, shoulder, or back. In order to mitigate the risks of above-shoulder work, an ergonomic job design should minimize the frequency and duration of such work. Workspaces should include platforms or adjustable scaffolds to raise employees to an optimal work height. Lifting tasks should be arranged to avoid requiring above-shoulder lifting. If above-shoulder lifting is necessary, the weight of the workload should be adjusted, or assistive devices used, to accommodate the lower lifting capacity of the shoulder muscles.

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