As an employer or manager, you are responsible for providing a safe and stable working environment for your employees. Without proper safety equipment, training and practices, your workers' efficiency declines to the point where absenteeism becomes a major threat to your company's growth and success.
Did you know that back injuries are the most common reason for absenteeism, 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, and these injuries account for over 24% of all workplace injury and illness involving days away from work. Back-related workplace injuries range from minor dull and achy to serious sharp and stabbing lumbar pain. These injuries limit employees’ ability to do their jobs and result in increased worker’s comp claims and downtime.
The most common causes of back injuries include:
- 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
Below are six steps you and your employees can take today to prevent back injuries in your workplace:
1) Observe and Assess
One of the most common reasons for lifting injuries is a failure to assess the environment before moving an object. You should check to see if the floor is uneven or wet and if there are potential tripping hazards. If you are going through a doorway check to make sure the door is open and wide enough for you to fit through. Lastly, ensure there is a clear path to the object’s destination and if not remove or clear anything that would get in your way.
2) Test & CheckYou should analyze the actual object before lifting. A small size does not guarantee a light load, so do not rely solely on appearance. Test the object by pushing it lightly with your hands and feet to see how easily it moves and check to make sure the weight is balanced and packed correctly. Loose pieces or items inside a box can throw off your balance and put additional pressure on the back.
3) Practice Proper Technique
Over ¾ of all back injuries occur when an employee is lifting, and many times improper technique is the cause. You should never lift a heavy object above shoulder level and should avoid twisting or turning the body while lifting or holding a heavy object.
For manual lifting, follow these techniques to reduce spinal compression and lower back strain:
- Keep a wide base of support
- Squat down, bending at the hips and knees only
- Maintain good posture by keeping the back straight
- Lift slowly by straightening hips/knees, not the back
- Hold the load close to the body at the belly button
- Use feet to change directions
- Lead with the hips, keeping shoulders in line
- Set the load down by squatting with hips and knees
4) Grips, Handles, Ladders and Leverage
When lifting an object make sure you have a tight grip on the object and if handles aren’t already in place, consider applying them for easier handling. Use a ladder when handling objects over your head and make sure to hold the object close to your body with the heaviest part closest.
5) Team & Tools
Overconfidence and reluctance to ask for help are a very dangerous combination. It is not “spineless” to ask someone for help and working as a team is much more efficient and safe than a strained solo effort. Ask for help when you need it and use any tools available – support belts, slings, grate lifters, lifting gloves, attachable handles, to ease the lifting process.
6) Core, Core, Core
Many people with back pain assume that the pain stems from a weak back, but this is not entirely true. When the abdominal muscles are weak, your back overcompensates to make up for this deficiency. Core strength by definition refers to the ability of your abdominal muscles and back to support your spine and keep your body stable and balanced. Back pain not only stems from a lack of strength but also an imbalance in muscle strength. Daily exercise is a key component in preventing back injuries and improving balance. Maintaining a healthy body weight will keep a minimum amount of stress off your back and will lead to a healthier life.
Back injuries can put a real strain on your company and are a huge pain for your employees. Following the steps outlined above along with providing the proper equipment, training and techniques will help avoid these injuries.
Schedule a free consultation with one of our safety experts today to learn how we can help prevent these and other injuries in your workplace.
Have a Safe Day!