Every day, workers put their back through the paces unlike any other part of their body. In fact, it is one of the parts of the body to face serious injuries most frequently. These injuries can be serious and debilitating, and hundreds of workers every year fall prey to this problem. We rely on our backs, but we also take them for granted. Here are some ways to protect your back and prevent injuries at work.
The Center for Construction Research and Training (CPWR) estimates that a full quarter of all injuries suffered annually on construction sites are back injuries. This is the highest rate of injuries after transportation-related injuries. Such injuries can cause a worker to miss anywhere from a week to a full month or more of work. This creates a substantial cost in both money and time for both employer and employee.
Causes of Back Injuries
The vast majority of back injuries involve strains and sprains. These are usually in the lower back and are caused by pushing, pulling, carrying, lifting and lowering heavy objects. If such activities are regular and repeated, the risk of injury increases.
Twisting, bending and working in awkward positions are also common causes of back strains. Such activities as handheld surface grinding, tying rebar and hand finishing work in the concrete industry are prime examples of work that puts one at risk for back injury.
Avoid the Strain
Many workers rely upon the vaunted back belt. However, there is little evidence that these devices greatly mitigate the risk of injury. The most effective way to spare your back is to engage in these practices:
- Avoid carrying heavy objects long distances.
- Carry heavy materials at the height of your waist.
- Keep floors and walkways dry and clear of clutter.
- Avoid fatigue — if you are tired, take a break and rest.
- Use equipment such as forklifts, dollies and carts rather than lifting heavy materials.
- Try to use tools with handles to help you get leverage.
- If the object weighs over 50 pounds, get help or use proper equipment.
- Keep heavy loads as close to your body as possible when lifting.
- Avoid stretching, bending and twisting while lifting and carrying.
- Use steady and smooth movements when lifting. Avoid jerking and sudden hoisting.
- Use support while lifting. Try leaning against a solid wall.
- Do not bend while lifting. Instead, squat or kneel.
- Use your legs and arms to lift, not your shoulders and back.
Whenever heavy lifting is required on a job site, employers should never assume their workers are properly trained. Educate your staff in the best practices for lifting and carrying. Post informational posters around the site. Engage in oversight and correct poor habits. Always remember that an educated jobsite is a safe jobsite.
Have you had experience with back injuries on the job? Do you have any advice or thoughts for preventing accidents or mitigating risk? Tell us your story in the comment section below!