BARSTOW, Calif. - You’re sitting at your desk all day when suddenly, you drop your pen … without thinking twice you bend down to pick it up; then, out of nowhere, you strain your lower back and you are now in so much agony that you cannot complete your assignment.
Luckily, personnel on Marine Corps Logistics Base Barstow, Calif., have a program which will minimize injuries like this and work-time lost due to injury: The Stretch and Flex Program.
The Stretch and Flex Program is an on-site stretching program for anyone to voluntarily participate in, explained Charlie Keegan, safety and occupational health specialist on MCLB Barstow who brought the program here. The program prepares the body for everyday work related stress put on the body.
“The idea to implement the Stretch and Flex Program here came about when I was doing an audit (at another base),” explained Keegan. “Whenever (our) safety team goes to other bases, we like to take positive things they’re doing to use here. The program proved to greatly reduce injuries on the job there ... we are hoping it will do the same here.”
It goes hand-in-hand with ergonomics, Keegan explained. Lifting objects properly and maintaining correct posture when sitting are just as important as the stretching.
Whether you are a weight lifting enthusiast or prefer to be chained to your desk, the program can prevent unnecessary injuries for everyone … no matter how active they are.
Sitting at the computer for prolonged periods of time, bending at the waist, or lifting objects or children all pose a risk for injury that would be minimized with proper stretching, added the Hillman, Mich., native.
“We need to start educating people on the importance of the program,” Keegan explained. “These injuries can be serious; dedicating just a few minutes on (the program) can minimize the risk.”
Keegan and the base safety office hope to see every office include the program in their daily routines.
“People will be more likely to participate if it’s in a group environment at a scheduled time each day,” he explained.
Every office on base has a reason to participate: the Child Development Center lifting infants, the supply shop lifting heavy boxes, or anyone who sits at their computer all day, Keegan added.
Carey Carr, director at the CDC here, explained she is thoroughly excited to start the program and even get the kids involved.
“Ergonomics is essential to prevent injuries,” Carr said. “We do a lot of training on the correct way to lift different objects (or infants).”
Although training on ergonomics is implemented, Carr has still seen injuries take place from the simplest of tasks.
“There have been injuries from tasks as simple as bending down to talk with a child,” explained the Wrightwood, Calif., native. “Also, playing with the children on the playground or participating in any of their daily activities may cause injury.”
Carr further explained, the program will be a great way to minimize injury and a fun way to educate and interact with the children.
“The Stretch and Flex program only takes a few minutes a day,” Keegan further explained. “You only have to hold four to five stretches for 10 seconds each.”
While the program isn’t mandatory, no one wants to be that person missing work due to a "pen" related injury. Keegan encourages everyone on base to implement the program and minimize these unnecessary risks.
For more information or materials with stretch and flex guidelines, visit the base safety office.