BEST: Standing using a work surface that is 36-42” high (kitchen bar/island, a folding table with risers or counter) provides a good height for working while standing. Standing allows you to move freely and avoid strains that can occur when over reaching.
GOOD: Sitting on a chair at a table is ok, but try to avoid reaching too far away to get supplies, cut the full length of paper or wrap large items standing up if you have to reach.
AVOID: Wrapping gifts on the floor; this puts excessive strain on your back and causes awkward reaching and sitting postures.
Gather all your supplies and place conveniently nearby to reduce reaching...
…such as presents, wrapping paper, ribbon, tape and scissors so you aren't running around looking for materials.
The need to repetitively reach across the table for these items can put stress on the low back.
Tight on Space? Consider pulling out a kitchen drawer and covering it with a cookie sheet or pan with sides, then place all of your supplies such as scissors, tape, ribbon, tags in the pan so you aren't searching for them while wrapping.
Cutting and taping: Avoid Sawzall and Duct Tape.
Consider investing a few dollars and get the best tools for the job like this wrapping paper cutter, spring loaded scissors and weighted tape dispenser. The cutting tools reduce the stress on the hand and fingers. The tape dispenser allows you to retrieve a piece of tape with one hand while the other hand is holding it all together.
Use gift bags and avoid a lot of the fancy folding and cutting.
Gift bags decrease the time you need to wrap gifts and eliminate the need to reach for paper, scissor, tape, etc. Oversize bags are great for large or heavy items.
Take an eggnog break to change posture and stretch… grab a cookie too!!!
Take a stretch breaks every 20-30 minutes. Open up your shoulders and take a few back bends. Go for a little walk.
Don't be a messy elf and clean up as you wrap.
Scraps of paper and ribbon on the floor create a slip and fall hazard (as well as too much mulled wine).
Gift Lift Guidelines:
When bending and reaching, fire up your core muscles and bend your knees. Keep your head above your buttocks when bending.
Anything over 35 pounds is a two elf lift.
Over 50 pounds get the John Deere or just put a bow on it and leave it where it lies.
When putting packages under the tree avoid unsupported long reaches. Pad your knees when kneeling, place one hand on the ground and position lighter gifts with the free hand.
When you stand up, reset your body and take a few back bends.
Avoid over shoulder reaches when putting the star on top of the tree. Get a ladder or step stool to keep the job below shoulder level. When the ladder has printed on the top rung “this is not a step” it means, this is not a step. Falling into the tree will only “delight” the tree, if you know what I mean.
Have a very happy and safe holiday season!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Natalie Campaneria (PT, MPH, CSPHP) of MEMIC posted this article with contributions from Allan Brown and Maureen Anderson. In her prior role, Campaneria founded the ergonomics department for a regional healthcare system with the goal of reducing repetitive strain injuries in the workforce. Natalie's responsibilities included job specific ergonomic risk assessments and she was responsible for the development of safety and risk prevention programs.
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