a worker overexerting themselves when carrying a heavy stack of boxes

Ways to Recognize, Combat and Prevent Overexertion Injuries

Stress, fatigue, thirst, aches. Seemingly minor symptoms might be early-onset signs of overexertion, which could lead to larger injury for your employees. Be sure they’re aware of the signs and prevention methods.
By Megan Embler, MS, ATC, LAT
June 6, 2024

Construction sites are bustling places where safety should always come first. While dangers, like machinery and falling objects, are often highlighted, overexertion is a concern that can affect both the progress of construction projects and the health and wellbeing of construction workers under the radar.

Overexertion can lead to lasting issues beyond simply discomfort: Musculoskeletal disorders can limit movement and negatively impact overall health; swelling, tingling, rigidity and ongoing pain can significantly hinder a worker's ability to carry out tasks efficiently and enjoy a healthy lifestyle off the jobsite. If left untreated, these symptoms can require extensive medical and therapy treatments and extended time off work, posing a threat to physical, mental and financial wellbeing of the worker—and potentially the company.


Overexertion occurs when the demands on parts of the body—muscles, tendons, ligaments organs—surpass their capacity to handle them. This typically happens during lifting, performing repetitive movements, holding uncomfortable postures or focusing on a tedious or strenuous task for long durations at a time. Early indicators of pain—which is oftentimes brushed off as discomfort that one can push through—is a cue for employees to take a break before pushing themselves too hard.

For project managers and field workers alike, recognizing the indicators of overexertion is crucial for ensuring overall safety. Workers need to understand their early indicators and their limits and recognize when to take a break and leaders need to not only acknowledge when their workers are overexerting themselves, but ideally build in preventative measures within their safety standards.


Preventing overexertion requires an approach from both workers and employers. Using tools and equipment to help with lifting, implementing safety practices and taking enough rest breaks are all effective methods to reduce the risk of injuries related to overexertion. Even something as easy as training good posture and motor skills can lessen the strain on muscles and joints.

Everyone can benefit from training programs that prevent injuries and promote a safe space to discuss them. By teaching workers about the importance of paying attention to their bodies and minds, construction companies can enable workers to proactively safeguard their health and wellbeing.

Promoting a safe work environment to prevent injuries on a jobsites of course involves providing training on best safety practices, supplying workers with the right tools and protective equipment, and ensuring that the workplace is free of hazards. But also, companies should regularly review or audit work procedures and job duties to pinpoint areas where there may be risks of overexertion. It's also essential for employers to foster communication between workers and supervisors to address any concerns or issues regarding overexertion—of the body and the brain.

By incorporating engineering solutions like using machinery for lifting or redesigning workstations to facilitate movements, and collecting company feedback on the use of these solutions, employers can decrease the chances of overexertion-related injuries and establish a safer workplace for their team.


  • Encourage workers to take breaks and rest when necessary.
  • Provide training on lifting techniques and body mechanics.
  • Rotate job responsibilities to prevent exposure to repetitive tasks.
  • Introduce a stretching routine to enhance flexibility and minimize muscle strain.
  • Regularly inspect the workplace for safety hazards and address them promptly.
  • Offer access to onsite health-care services, like physical therapy or athletic training.
  • Emphasize early reporting of injuries and allow for task modifications to reduce the risk of further harm.

Overexertion poses a danger in the construction industry. However, by using proactive prevention strategies, employers can establish a work environment where health, wellbeing and productivity thrive. By collaborating with health experts, introducing engineering safeguards and emphasizing education and training, employers can mitigate the likelihood of overexertion-induced injuries and foster a safer workplace for workers.

by Megan Embler, MS, ATC, LAT
Megan Embler, MS, ATC, LAT, is the lead onsite athletic trainer for Concentra. She joined the Concentra® Onsite Health Preventative Services team in 2020 as an onsite athletic trainer working primarily in Connecticut in the construction industry. She has been heavily involved in the growth of the onsite program there, where she advocates for a proactive versus reactive mindset when it comes to injury prevention. She also took on a role as one of the national lead athletic trainers for Concentra and became the subject matter expert on various topics.

Related stories

Effective Strategies for Reinforcing Safety Into Evolving Design Standards Cover Art

Effective Strategies for Reinforcing Safety Into Evolving Design Standards

By Ethan Harris
As construction methods evolve, so do safety standards. Make sure your design/build strategy accounts for changes to both.
Beat the Heat Cover Art

Beat the Heat

By Ken Budd
Summers are increasingly sizzling. Think you know everything about heat-related illnesses—including how best to keep your workers safe and healthy? Take our quiz.
Fall Protection for Everyone Cover Art

Fall Protection for Everyone

By Mark McGhiey
While protection from falls is important for all construction workers, certain demographics may be statistically more susceptible to danger on the jobsite.

Follow us

Subscribe to Our Newsletter

Stay in the know with the latest industry news, technology and our weekly features. Get early access to any CE events and webinars.