Solution Summary: Knee Pads
Knee pads are personal protective equipment used to relieve the pressure on the knee joints that result from kneeling on hard surfaces. Knee pads are meant to distribute body weight in kneeling over a larger surface area and protect the knee from hard surfaces.
Workers who kneel put 89% of their body weight on a small surface area. Prolonged kneeling can often lead to injury. Knee pads help you protect your knees by distributing your weight over a larger surface area and reduce the force on your knee caps.
Knee pads come in a variety of materials, such as felt, rubber, polyurethane, or plastics. Some knee pads are strapped around the leg and placed over or under clothing, whereas others are inserted into knee pockets of specially designed work pants. One type of knee pad can also convert into a seating device while kneeling. Knee pads should fit snuggly, but should not disrupt circulation to the lower extremities. The quality of knee pads differ based on the materials, weight, and water permeability. Knee pads may need to be replaced often as the pads flatten over time.
Figure 1. Example of a knee pad
Figure 2. Gel knee pad
Figure 3. Knee pad with built-in seat
Prolonged kneeling can cause musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) such as prepatellar bursitis (housemaid’s knee), which is swelling on the front of the kneecap. Knee pads help protect the knees during prolonged kneeling by distributing body weight over a larger surface area and reducing the force passed on to the knee cap.
How Risks are Reduced:
Workers, who spend a good deal of time in the kneeling position, put 89% of their body weight on a small surface area. Prolonged kneeling can often lead to injury. The rationale for using knee pads is to protect the knee by distributing your weight over a larger surface area and reduce the force passed on to soft tissue.
Independent studies have shown an association between musculoskeletal disorders and awkward postures (e.g. kneeling), and contact stresses (e.g contact pressures are concentrated in a small area). Knee pads are used to protect the knee by distributing your weight over a larger surface area and reducing the force passed on to soft and hard tissue.
There have not been independent published studies measuring the effect of using knee pads on reducing knee-related musculoskeletal disorders. Regardless, health and safety experts believe that workers will be more comfortably and less likely to develop musculoskeletal disorders if they use knee pads due to reduced exposure to known risk factors.
Effects on Productivity:
Reducing discomfort associated with kneeling on hard surfaces for prolonged periods may increase productivity because workers would presumably be able to work for longer periods without standing up.
Dan Anton, PT, PhD, ATC and Cassie Malecha, DPT – Eastern Washington University