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Who's Got Your (Lower) Back: Workplace Safety And Back Injuries

Julie Copeland

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CEO

safety, workplace safety, back injury, back injuries, preventing back injuries, lifting techniques, manual lifting, workplace injuryPreventing back injuries is a workplace safety effort that we are in need of constant reminder to uphold and maintain best practices for our worker’s back health. As back injuries affect so many people in the general workforce, it’s become very problematic for employers and employees alike.

Back injuries are the most common reason for missing work, right after the common cold. According to recent reports, 80% of adults are estimated to experience a back injury at some point in their lifetime. Also, back injuries account for over 24% of all workplace injury and illness involving days away from work.

The result of so many back-related workplace injuries are workers who suffer from serious lumbar pain -- from dull and achy to sharp and stabbing -- along with the potential inability to do their job properly. For your business, it means dollars lost in workers’ compensation claims and production downtime. 

What are the most common causes of the nation’s #1 safety problem?

  • Force -- Exerting too much force on your back, such as lifting or moving heavy objects
  •  Repetition -- Repeating certain movements leads to muscle fatigue or injury
  • Posture -- Slouching exaggerates your back’s natural curves, which leads to muscle fatigue and injury 

Sometimes, a back injury happens because of some combination of the three, making prevention efforts difficult. However, large portions of back injuries are reduced through implementing an effective control program and ergonomic design of work tasks.

Carefully select or train workers.

The following administrative controls are effective workplace safety tips in preventing back injuries:

  • Strength test workers to discourage assigning workers to jobs that exceed their lifting capabilities
  • Train employees to use proper lifting techniques to minimize stress on the lower back
  • Implement physical conditioning and stretching programs to reduce the risk of muscle strain

Always be sure to take into account the magnitude of manual lifting along with the age and stamina of the worker.

Redesign a job so lifting becomes less hazardous.

The following engineering controls are based on ergonomics and fitting the job to the person and not the person to the job:

  • Reduce the size and/or weight of the object being lifted based on compactness, the presence of handles and the stability of the package
  • Adjust the height of a pallet or shelf, and remove obstructions, so the worker’s body is able to point straight at the object their lifting, holding the item between armpit and knees
  • Install mechanical aids to help workers lift heavy objects, such as pneumatic lifts, conveyors and automated materials handling equipment

It has been said that incorporating ergonomics into the workplace reduces back injuries by a third, which is a significant and worthwhile drop in an otherwise stark workplace safety statistic. 

As for manual lifting, the following are lifting techniques to reduce compressing the spinal discs or straining your lower back:

  • Keep a wide base of support
  • Squat down, bending at the hips and knees only
  • Maintain good posture by keeping your back straight
  • Lift slowly by straightening hips/knees, not your back
  • Hold the load close to your body at your belly button
  • Use your feet to change directions
  • Lead with your hips, keeping shoulders in line
  • Set down your load by squatting with hips and knees

For manual lifting and preventing back injuries, you should never lift a heavy object above shoulder level and avoid twisting or turning your body while lifting or holding a heavy object.

Through taking these proven measures for preventing back injuries in the workplace, you ensure you’re workers get home safe and are healthy and ready to work another day.

Ready to learn more about how to effectively promote workplace safety and prevent back injuries for your workforce? Call 800-523-5367 or click on the button below to speak with a safety specialist at Arbill.

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Topics: safety, back injuries, workplace injury, manual lifting, workplace safety, preventing back injuries, back injury, lifting techniques

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