Knees are ignored in OSHA's guide to personal protective equipment
Almost 20 million visits to the doctor are made each year in America due to knee complaints, yet if you do a search under "knee supports" or "knee braces" on the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) website, you won't find a single reference.
A bit surprising, considering how common knee injuries are and how often you see workers wearing knee supports in the prevention, treatment and rehabilitation of knee injuries.
But, like back supports, knee supports are not considered a primary strategy for workplace safety.
Whether or not knee supports are an effective way to protect workers may be debatable, but the fact remains: millions of people use knee supports to cope with knee injuries such as
- torn ligaments
- loose fragments of bone or cartilage
- damaged joint surfaces or softening of the articular cartilage known as chondromalacia
- inflammation of the synovial membrane, such as rheumatoid or gouty arthritis
- instability of the kneecap.
According to the American Association of Family Physicians (AAFP), knee supports should be used along with a rehabilitation program that includes "strength training, flexibility, activity modification and technique refinement."
Types of Knee Supports
Depending on the type of knee condition, the AAFP describes four types of knee supports:
- Prophylactic - to protect knees from impact
- Functional - to provide support for an injured knee
- Rehabilitative - to allow protected and controlled motion during healing
- Patellofemoral - help the kneecap move smoothly over the joint.
While it's true that knee supports are not listed in its PPE guide, OSHA does identify four workplace risk factors for knees:
- Static postures - standing in place for long periods
- Push/pull operations - exerting too much force
- Crouching and kneeling - contact with hard surfaces and flexion
- Sitting - if seat height is wrong, lower extremities are vulnerable.
Other than recommending the use of knee pads when crouching or kneeling, OSHA does not specifically mention knee supports or knee braces to protect the knee from injury.
If you have a history of knee trouble, it is always advisable to consult your family doctor or an orthopedic specialist to determine if knee supports can help you work safely and with reduced pain.