Originally published 11/01/2017
Back injuries are among the most common workplace injury, even in construction. Once injured, the back can become a life-long source of recurrent pain and potential re-injury that often surgery and medication cannot fix.
The causes of back injuries include:
- Reaching while lifting,
- Poor posture,
- Staying in one position for too long,
- Poor physical condition,
- Repetitive lifting,
- Twisting or bending while lifting,
- Heavy lifting,
- Poor footing and
- Vibrations, such as in lift trucks or delivery trucks.
Back injury can be prevented if you:
- Minimize the weight, range of motion and frequency of the activity.
- Plan ahead. Decide how you are going to pick up a load, carry it and set it down, then check the route for obstructions. Always get assistance if the load is too heavy or too awkward.
- Get as close to the load as possible before lifting. The further the load is from the center line of your body, the greater the strain imposed on your back.
- Reduce the size or weight of the object(s) being lifted.
- If possible, push rather than pull an object.
- Make sure your material handling equipment has handles that can be easily grasped while in an upright posture.
- Elevate bins and containers and tilt them if possible, to improve access to the materials inside the containers.
- Provide lift-assist devices.
Remember, too, that stretching before beginning work helps to warm up muscles and prevent strains and sprains. Strength and fitness training can also benefit workers. Rotating employees, providing short breaks every hour or so or using a two-person lift may be helpful in reducing injury as well.
Reducing repetitive stress and acute back injuries by improving workplace ergonomics and worker training improves health and productivity – a win-win for workers and employers.