By: Chris Hall

Back injuries represent a large number of worker compensation claims in today's workplace.  Unfortunately, a back injury is something that has a strong possibility of frequently reoccurring causing severe pain and missed time for the employee.  Educating your workers on several key topics will help them understand how they may prevent back injuries.

A strong back is a healthy back. 

Conditioning through regular exercise and stretching is comparable to regular maintenance on your car; if it is never done, the vehicle is likely to breakdown often and usually for the same things.  A strong back is better able to withstand the wear and tear that physical work can have on the body.  Daily stretching and a regular exercise routine that works the muscles around the spine and abdomen will help to prevent back injuries.  Employees should consult with their physician prior to beginning any exercise regimen because previous conditions or improper technique could lead to other serious injuries.      

If it is too much, get help.

All too often, back injuries are caused by workers lifting, or attempting to lift an object they knew was too heavy.  Asking for help from another employee or using a mechanical device to lift heavy or bulky objects is not only smart, but it is more efficient.  Two workers or a device working to move an object from here-to-there can do it with more ease than one person who is struggling alone.  This idea should also be applied to large or bulky items.  A large object can cause the person carrying it to work harder to maintain their balance.  This causes unnecessary twisting, bending and strain on the back. Even if the load does not weigh very much, its size may be enough to cause an injury.

Mechanics, Mechanics, Mechanics.

No discussion about back injury can be complete without mentioning the importance of body mechanics.  Good body mechanics allow an employee to bend, lift or stretch in the most efficient way to reduce the strain on their muscles and joints.  When lifting an object, the following use of body mechanics should be observed:

  • Position yourself directly in front and as close to the item you are lifting
  • Always bend at the knees and never at the waist
  • Make sure you have a solid grip on the item
  • Lift slowly utilizing leg and arm muscles, keeping your head up and back straight, and tightening your abdominal muscles
  • Never use your back to twist or shift, if you must rotate, move your entire body
  • Keep the load close to your body
  • Follow these same mechanics when setting the load down

Although back injury prevention is always a topic of concern for employers, it is a difficult injury to prevent without the cooperation of the employees.  An understanding of the factors that prevent back injuries can help employees save their back not only for today's job, but for the rest of their life.  They are the ones who will have to live with it.