Welcome to this week’s Arbill Blog Series, “What’s Wrong With These Pictures?”
In response to the two photos above, you may have guessed “spine twisting” or “bad posture,” both of which are correct answers and unacceptable in terms of workplace safety!
One of the biggest workplace safety challenges for any business is the prevention of back injuries. Throughout this week, to put some added emphasis on this major work injury obstacle, we’ll be presenting you with photos of bad workplace safety practices that have a high risk for back injury.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, more than one million workers suffer back injuries each year. Back injuries also account for one of every five workplace injuries and illnesses. On top of the pain and suffering endured by employees, one-fourth of all compensation indemnity claims involve back injuries that end up costing billions of dollars.
Manual handling -- lifting, placing, carrying, holding and lowering -- accounts for many back injuries and other musculoskeletal disorders and are the principal cause of compensable work injuries. The BLS survey shows that four out of five of these injuries are to the lower back and three out of the four occurred while the employee was lifting.
However, sitting for long periods of time with poor posture and desk setup are also responsible for many back injuries. Most people associate back injuries with manual labor but, as it turns out, sitting for long periods of time isn’t all that great for us.
Ergonomics: Keeping The Spine In Line
The truth about back injuries is that up to one-third of them could have been prevented through better job design alone.
Enter ergonomics, the science of fitting workplace conditions and job demands to the capabilities of the working population. These effective “fits” result in higher productivity, injury risk avoidance and an increase in employee satisfaction.
Here are the most common ergonomic risk factors:
- Repetitive, forceful or prolonged exertions of the hands
- Frequent or heavy lifting
- Pushing, pulling or carrying of heavy objects
- Prolonged awkward positions
The level of risk depends on the intensity, frequency and duration of the exposure to certain conditions.
Here are some ways to reduce your risk factors:
- Setting up your desk to improve the effects of prolonged sitting and keying
- Adjusting the height of a pallet or shelf so that lifting occurs in the area between the shoulder and knee
- Removing obstructions that prevent an employee’s body from being able to easily contact the object being lifted also helps alleviate the risk of back injury
- Installing mechanical aids like pneumatic lifts, conveyors and automated handling equipment
Ergonomics is certainly one of the best ways to improve the potential for hazards in the workplace. But, there’s no one approach for totally eliminating back injuries.
Check back next time, when we’ll explore some of the other ways to avoid back injury, such as manual material handling and proper lifting techniques.
Ready to learn more about reducing workplace injury risks? Call 800-523-5367 or click on the button below to speak with an Arbill safety specialist.