Painters perform a wide variety of tasks from painting with brushes and rollers to sanding and mixing paint. Many of these tasks require awkward postures, forceful exertions, repeated movements, and sometimes exposures to heat and cold—all risk factors for developing musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs). The following are a few tips for reducing these risks:

Act early

Fatigue and discomfort are early warning signs for developing MSDs. Recognizing these early signs and taking preventive measures (stretching, asking for help, changing your posture or position) help reduce the likelihood of developing an MSD.

Use good body mechanics

Keep your head up, your back and neck straight, and don’t twist, especially when lifting and lowering materials.

    1. Avoid bending at the waist for prolonged periods of time. One of the most common awkward postures is forward bending or flexion. Bending forward for prolonged periods is a significant risk factor for back injuries. Even if little or no weight is being handled, the weight of the torso is supported by the muscles of the back, putting a large amount of strain on the spine and surrounding soft tissues.
      • When possible, raise the work on two sawhorses or a bench.
      • Sit on a stable stool if you have to work at lower levels for any period of time. This helps reduce the stress on your back from bending forward and reduces the stress on your knees from squatting.
      • Avoid storing materials at ground level.
    2. Minimize overhead work. Overhead lifting and reaching causes the back to arch. Excessive arching places stress on the joints of the spine and places additional strain on the neck and shoulders.
      • If you have to work overhead, get as close to your work as possible by standing on a platform or ladder.
      • Take frequent breaks. Periodically bend forward with your hands on your knees to stretch out your low back.
      • When painting above shoulder level, use a ladder to avoid over extending your back.
    3. Use extensions for painting equipment to reduce reaching and bending.
    4. Move your feet! Avoid painting large areas while standing in one spot. This causes you to repeatedly bend and twist.
    5. To avoid having to hold the paint can or bucket, set it down on a raised or elevated surface at waist height.
    6. Kneeling is better than bending. When kneeling, consider wearing kneepads or pants with built-in kneepads to your protect your knees.
    7. Take a brief break every 2 hours. Change your position or posture, walk around, and stretch.